By Mark Tapscott
Worries about America’s slowing population growth are misplaced because simply having more people in the country is no guarantee of higher incomes for every individual, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Director of Research Steven Camarota.
“It is clear that the simplistic argument that more population growth necessarily leads to more per capita economic growth, which is the kind of growth that matters, is not obvious and in fact the evidence seems to be the other way around,” Carmarota told The Epoch Times during a June 1 interview.
“The idea that you want lots of population growth is simply not supported by the evidence. You can argue for population growth for any number of justifications but the point here is that you can’t argue for it because it obviously leads to more economic growth,” Camarota said.
Camarota’s comments followed a wave of recent claims of supporters of increased immigration into the country that slowing or stagnant population meant less economic growth and more national security challenges.
Those claims were prompted by the U.S. Census Bureau’s April 26 announcement that the U.S. population growth rate of 7.4 percent since 2010 was the smallest since the Great Depression years of the 1930s.
The day after the Census Bureau data became public, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt quoted a 2010 analysis by The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson saying “I don’t know of a precedent for a dynamic country that has basically stopped growing. The examples in Europe and in Japan are warning signs, not beacons.”
Leonhardt also noted that liberal analyst Matthew Yglesias contends the United States must increase its population if it hopes to compete with China to remain the most powerful nation on earth.
“In Matthew Yglesias’s recent book ‘One Billion Americans,’ he argues that the U.S. should rapidly increase legal immigration to lift economic output. ‘America should aspire to be the greatest nation on earth,’ Yglesias, the author of a Substack newsletter, writes. The only realistic alternative for that role is China, an authoritarian country that is jailing critics and committing egregious human rights abuses,” Leonhardt reported.
On the same day, Deseret News Columnist Jay Evensen said “since 2019, the national debt has grown from $22.5 trillion to $28.2 trillion, and it’s on a steep upward trajectory. How well could the nation service that debt with a slow growth rate, let alone a declining population?
“How will Social Security survive as young workers shrink and retirees grow? How could the nation maintain a strong military with fewer soldiers and a declining base of taxpayers?”
And Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William Frey told the Washington Post’s Dan Balz on May 9, for example, that the new population figures can be turned around with more open immigration policies.
“I don’t think we need to think of ourselves as a country in decline if we open our gates and open our arms to this younger and more racially diverse population, through immigration and through investment in our people of color,” Frey said.
Camarota published a data-driven analysis on June 1 in which he argued there is little correlation in economic growth between population growth and per-capita income growth.
“In truth, there is no clear evidence that population growth necessarily improves a country’s standard of living,” Camarota wrote in his analysis. “To be sure, a larger population almost always results in a larger aggregate economy. More workers, more consumers, and more government spending will make for a larger Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“But the standard of living in a country is determined by per capita (i.e., per person) GDP, not the overall size of the economy. If all that mattered were the aggregate size of the economy, then a country like India would be considered vastly richer than a country like Sweden because it has a much larger economy. In reality, per capita GDP determines a country’s standard of living.”
Camarota compiled Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data for economic and population growth for countries designated by the World Bank as high-income nations.
“If population growth drove economic growth, then countries like Canada and Australia that have among the highest rates of immigration and resulting population growth should vastly outpace a country like Japan, which has relatively little immigration and whose population actually declined over the last decade,” Camarota wrote.
“And yet in the most recent decade for which we have data, (2010 to 2019), Japan’s per-capita GDP grew 10.5 percent, slightly better than both Canada’s 8.7 percent and Australia’s 9.9 percent,” he said.
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