Published on YaleGlobal Online Magazine (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu)
Home > US Could Be World’s Most Populous Country

US Could Be World’s Most Populous Country

Nations that manage to satisfy a large population politically, economically, socially can become beacons of hope for the rest of the world. The US is the world’s third most populated country, trailing China and India, but could aim to become most populated by the end of the century: An eightfold increase in annual immigration would lead to a fivefold increase in the US population, explains demographer Joseph Chamie. Of course, population rankings depend on what other nations do: Others may woo immigrants; fertility rates could rise or fall. Current projections suggest that China’s and India’s populations will plateau, then drop, respectively, by 2030 and 2060; populations of Nigeria and the US, with its current rate of immigration, show a steady rise. “Global opinion polls show that many people at virtually all skill levels would like to emigrate, and the number-one destination is overwhelmingly the United States,” Chamie concludes. Immigration is a dominant force behind population totals for the US, as well as its balance between young and old and transmission of social values. – YaleGlobal

US Could Be World’s Most Populous Country

By opening immigration door, the US could fuel rise of population and power
Joseph Chamie
YaleGlobal, 15 April 2013
Let them come: Tourists at the feet of the Statue of Liberty (top); Latino demonstrators rally for immigration reform

NEW YORK: The United States could aim to have largest population in the world before the end of the century, thus ensuring its power.

The US now has a population of 316 million – third largest after China, 1.36 billion, and India, 1.28 billion – and could aim for 1.6 billion, simply by opening wide its doors to immigration from across the globe as it did during most of its 237-year history.

If immigration to America were increased to 10 million immigrants per year throughout the remainder of this century, the demographic result would be a US population of about 940 million by 2060 and 1.60 billion by the close the 21st century (see Figure 1). The world’s second and third largest populations in 2100 are projected to be India, 1.55 billion, and China, 0.94 billion.

However, if in the coming decades America continues with net immigration of about 1.2 million annually, as currently assumed, the US population would reach 420 million by year 2060. Although this projected growth would be an increase of more than 100 million, the US population would fall to fourth place as Nigeria takes over the number three position with a projected population of 460 million in 2060. The populations of the three countries currently larger than Nigeria – Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan – are expected to peak around midcentury and begin declining thereafter due to projected low fertility rates falling below replacement levels. Also in the longer term, the gap between projected US population, with 1.2 million immigrants annually, versus the larger US population, with 10 million immigrants annually, widens rapidly, resulting in a difference of 1.1 billion Americans at the close of the century.

Immigration is the chief source of America’s population growth in the coming decades, unlike China, India and Nigeria. US fertility hovers around the replacement level of about two children per woman and is unlikely to change significantly in the foreseeable future. If immigration were to cease altogether, the US population in 2060 would grow to 355 million, an increase of 39 million, but the labor force would decline by several percentage points and the age structure would be considerably older.

Population Projections for Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, United States and Enhanced United States: 2010-2100 (billions). Enlarge Image

America could easily accommodate a larger population given its considerable size and abundant resources. A population of 1.6 billion would increase the nation’s density from today’s 33 persons per square kilometers to 165 persons in 2100, about half the level in Massachusetts today. This future density is well below current densities in Germany at 231 per square kilometer; Japan, 335; and the United Kingdom, 255. Even if the world’s entire population of 7.1 billion were to reside in America, the nation’s resulting density of 732 persons per square kilometer would still be less than current densities of Bahrain, at 1,818; Bangladesh, 1,033; and Singapore, 7,447.

Increased demands for food, housing and energy could be handled with a revitalized US economy and developing underutilized land and natural resources, including natural gas and renewable sources of energy. Innovation and technology could alleviate negative environmental impacts, as has been demonstrated over the nation’s two-century history.

Increased immigration is consistent with America’s admired tradition of being a nation of immigrants and the eloquent call on the plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

Since the nation’s founding in 1776, immigration has accounted for more than half of America’s population growth. Without its past immigration waves, America’s current population of 316 million would be about 143 million.

Immigrants have shaped American history. At the start of the 20th century, the US proportion of foreign born reached its peak near 15 percent. Considerably higher proportions of foreign born occurred in California, with 25 percent; Massachusetts, 30 percent; Minnesota, 29 percent; and New York, 26 percent. Today, the proportion of foreign born is 13 percent – leading states are California, 27 percent; New York, 22 percent; and New Jersey, 21 percent. Countries with higher proportions of foreign born include Australia, 22 percent; Canada, 21 percent; and Israel, 40 percent.

Immigration has accounted for more
than half of America’s population growth since its founding in 1776.

Rapid population growth for the United States is not without historical precedent. For example, between 1813 and 1900, America’s population increased nearly tenfold, 8 million to 76 million, and fivefold between 1890 and 2013, 63 million to 316 million. The populations of some individual US states grew more rapidly than the nation as a whole. For instance, between 1850 and 1910, populations of Texas and California increased 18-fold and 26-fold, respectively.

Increasing US immigration to 10 million per year would facilitate the reunification of separated families. Rather than having to wait for years, US immigrants would be joined by spouses, children, siblings, parents within weeks. This would boost American leadership in promoting family and social networks. America’s ethnic, cultural and personal ties, such as those now firmly established with Ireland, Israel and Italy, would be extended to encompass all nations.

The issue of illegal immigration would no longer be a sensitive political matter occupying valuable time and resources of the US president or Congress. Unauthorized immigrants residing in the US – 60 percent currently from Mexico – would be granted amnesty and welcomed as new citizens. Enforcement, border patrol, legal/judicial hearings, incarceration and deportations would be negligible, saving the nation billions of dollars that could be used for rebuilding America’s ailing infrastructure.

In addition to the familial, political and administrative advantages, opening America’s doors wide to immigrants would engender many far-reaching economic and social benefits, including yielding a vastly expanded GDP and greater tax revenues; more workers, entrepreneurs, innovators and consumers; a younger population; a more competitive workforce and wage levels; increased contributions to Social Security and Medicare; a larger pool of potential recruits for all kinds of work; and enriched cultural diversity.

Increasing US immigration to 10 million per year would facilitate the reunification of separated families.

Furthermore, setting US immigration at 10 million per year would help repopulate and rejuvenate many declining and financially strapped cities, including Detroit, Newark or Stockton. It would ease the labor-shortages for farmers, food producers, working mothers, landscapers, health care providers, high-tech entrepreneurs and more. Energetic immigrants would take on jobs that Americans find difficult, decline to do or are not qualified to perform.

Businesses, chambers of commerce, unions, religious institutions, immigrant-advocacy groups and various government agencies would also benefit from increased immigration. Companies could choose from a terrifically expanded, motivated and youthful labor pool. Unions would have all workers authorized to participate in the labor force, thereby ending the undercutting of fair wages. Government authorities and employers would not need to verify or monitor work permits and worksites except to ensure that all employees pay required taxes.

Global opinion polls show that many people at virtually all skill levels would like to emigrate, and the number-one destination is overwhelmingly the United States. In addition to promoting continued migration from neighboring Canada, Mexico, Central America and other Latin American countries, greater numbers of bright, ambitious and innovative immigrants should be sought from countries in South and East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Finally, with US immigration increased to 10 million per year, the enhanced America with a population of 1.6 billion by century’s close would mean a more secure and flourishing world. As the world’s most populous nation by 2100, America would strengthen its capacity to continue promoting democracy, freedom and development, thereby ensuring peace, stability and prosperity for every region of the world.

 

Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division, recently stepped down as research director at the Center for Migration Studies. He is the lead author of the groundbreaking, seminal study, “Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Declining and Ageing Populations?”

Rights:Copyright © 2013 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

Comments on this Article

14 May 2013
You're kidding me, right? I mean, does anybody even filter these articles? Oh, yeah, let's turn NYC into a 30 million person megalopolis--that'll really improve our quality of life. Let's bring in those starving masses, with little in the way of resources, education, and language skills. Hmm.
Tell you what, though, let's start selling American residence visas for a $1 million investment, and start giving away work visas for people who obtain master's degrees in engineering, science, IT and math. Now that would work.
-Steve , Thailand
30 April 2013
A portion of this comment has been cut by YaleGlobal staff.
this is not an ideological battle of left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is Joseph Chamie's Jewish bolshevik warfare against white people.
Why do hostile globalist elite defend Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but ravage white majority Europe/North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with dystopian non-White colonization?
East Asia is 99% yellow. Africa is 90% Black. West Asia is 99% Brown. But 3rd world colonizers are annihilating Whites, just as China annihilates Tibet....
"Native" Americans are not native. They invaded from East Asia. Yellow & Brown races committed 10-times more genocide, slavery, imperialism than Whites. From Greeks till today, Whites were victims of Jewish/Crypto-Jewish, Turkic, Muslim, N.African imperialism, slavery, genocide.
Gullible Whites should reject subversive anti-White ideologies - libertarianism, feminism, liberalism, & reject hostile slanders of racism/collectivism. Love to all humanity, but White people must organize to advance their families, their fertility, their homelands, their interests. Spread this message. Reading list: goo.gl/iB777 , goo.gl/htyeq , amazon.com/dp/0759672229 , amazon.com/dp/1410792617
-uma , virginia
23 April 2013
Note the three examples of very high population density nations:
1). Bahrain: A large population density sustained by an abundant energy resource which exists in very few places on earth.
2). Bangladesh: One of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world.
3). Singapore: A nation that has carved out a high profile niche for itself in the global economy. It is thus properly viewed as one small piece of a large interdependent economy. There is only room for a small portion of the human race to fill this particular niche in the economy.
An analogous situation would be to cite the population density of New York City as evidence of how high a population density is possible for society. But again, New York City occupies a niche in the economy. It does not produce the natural resources that are used to construct its skyscrapers. It does not produce its food. It plays a specialized role in an interdependent economy. Its existence is predicated on the existence of other places with large expanses of farmland on which a handful of people produce food by mechanized agriculture.
Amazingly, I have actually seen people of the mindset of the author of this article that have used the New York City example as somehow indicative of how many people you could cram into the entire country. It is probably prudent that Chamie used the example of Singapore instead, since it is not quite as obvious as it is in the case of New York City that it is simply an economic niche that cannot be replicated as the demographic model for the entire economy, because it fills that economic niche role despite being an entire nation.
One big question that ought to be raised regarding Chamie's article is "why"? Why grow the population massively? Chamie doesn't even really give a reason. His article comes across as being akin to the old college prank of seeing how many people you can cram into a telephone booth (remember those?) Why do it? I guess because some people get a kick out of using the people of the United States as the equivalent of laboratory rats in performing their demographic experiments.
-Lance Sjogren , Vancouver, WA
22 April 2013
"Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division".
The disappointing quality of leadership employed by the U.N. would be funny, if it weren't for the hideous consequences. The simple-mindedness of Mr. Chamie is stunning. He believes the U.S. has the capacity to shoulder an infinite mass of demands, without collapsing under the weight.
A few counter points:
1. "Increased demands for food, housing and energy could be handled with a revitalized US economy and developing underutilized land and natural resources, including natural gas and renewable sources of energy. Innovation and technology could alleviate negative environmental impacts, as has been demonstrated over the nation’s two-century history."
- What if the economy doesn't "revitalize"? Does he think a strong economy can be materialized at will? Hasn't Obama been trying to do this, without success, for 4 years?
- What underutilized land? National parks? City parks, like Central Park in NYC? Where is this mass of underutilized land?
- The fact of past technology solutions solving social problems does not guarantee all social problem can and will be solved by technology. Mr. Chamie does acknowledge problems would arrive from a population of 1.6billion people. Why not just avoid the problem by limiting population?
2. "Increased immigration is consistent with America’s admired tradition of being a nation of immigrants and the eloquent call on the plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: 'Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.' "
- This is like making life decisions from advice in a fortune cookie. A poem on a statue is not national policy.
3. "Increasing US immigration to 10 million per year would facilitate the reunification of separated families. Rather than having to wait for years, US immigrants would be joined by spouses, children, siblings, parents within weeks."
- What about the families who just missed the 10 million cut-off? Wouldn't they be separated? Surely someone would have to decide who to let in each year. On what basis would we choose who to let in? BTW, the last question is one we face today. Opening the flood gates doesn't end the need to bother thinking about these things.
4. "Furthermore, setting US immigration at 10 million per year would help repopulate and rejuvenate many declining and financially strapped cities, including Detroit, Newark or Stockton."
- Detroit, Newark, and Stockton aren't declining because we have too few people. They are declining because they are poorly managed and have become terrible places to live. Immigrants would avoid them, too.
I could continue, but you get the picture. Joseph Chamie is clearly not bright enough to have held the positions of responsibility which he's held.
-Paul G. , Texas
21 April 2013
Yale Global's publication of Joseph Chamie's above article vies for one of the worst single articles to have ever come out of academia YaleGlobal.org course grade? - "F" YaleGlobal.org academic grade? - "F" Understanding of science, and earth and biospheric systems? - "F" Biology grade? - "F"
Joseph Chamie's grade? - "F" Global environmental issues? "F" Introductory Ecology? - "F" Population-environment? - "F" Biodiversity and Conservation? - "F"
With your publication of Joseph Chamie's article 1.6 billion, you have just championed biospheric illiteracy and you have just failed academia, Yale University, opposing views standards, as well as about every branch of biological and whole-systems science – (not to mention the ONLY planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe).
Every one of you at Yale's "Globalization" institute needs to take a crash program in remedial science-systems studies - and Mr. Chamie should be ashamed of his earth-systems illiteracy. Your downloadable and easy-to-assimilate remedial online assignment links are listed below and address the following question: What should EVERY policymaker, student, educator, academic, and citizen
(and demographer) know about our planet?
SET ONE - Biospherics Literacy and Sustainability 101 / Five PowerPoints /Five Days ?
http://www.scribd.com/collections/3705681/Biospherics-Literacy-101-Five-...
SET TWO - Priority population-environment collection for Academia and Policymakers
http://www.scribd.com/collections/3655003/Population-for-Academia-and-Po...
For instance, sample PowerPoints include
Population, Carrying Capacity, and Limiting Factors in Natural Systems (Suggested)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/118659074/Population-Carrying-Capacity-and-Lim...
Ecological Services and Biospheric Life-support Machinery
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/30231732?access_key=key-x4cwny8s654eee3...
Earth's Atmosphere and Seas as Razor-thin Surface Films
http://www.scribd.com/full/28709867?access_key=key-2nz7qoeakn2mqnl8h5o5
An Introduction to World Population and Demographics
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/18366094?access_key=key-20iiu722r2dhym1...
And sample priority PDFs include:
Three real-world "Too-Late" Population calamities in environments that remain 99.998%unoccupied?
http://www.scribd.com/doc/81278312/Population-Too-late-conditions-in-nea...
(Three classical examples of 99%-plus die-offs and/or even worse climb-and-collapse mortalities in
real-world populations that "waited too-long:")
Conservation - Why 10% Goals May Permit Collapse
http://www.scribd.com/doc/56393467/Conservation-Why-10-goals-are-not-eno...
Demographic Transition Theory and Life-extension Research - New Questions
http://www.scribd.com/doc/19805610/Demographic-Transition-Theory-Lifeext...
HowLarge is a Billion? (A billion pages of theoretical physics?) (Hint: The answer is 38,461 years)
http://www.calameo.com/read/000676519a0f5f8d39904
and, lastly, as an added PowerPoint we suggest
Real-world Population Calamities in Seemingly ‘empty’ Environments? (PPT version)
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/29284061?access_key=key-1d5uc7f665roaub...
-Randolph Femmer , USA
21 April 2013
The author has made an excellent case for us to stop the immigration bill being considered immediately and if anything radically tighten our immigration processes and policies. This is a formula for economic and environmental catastrophe.
-Winter , Santa Monica
18 April 2013
I have to say: WTF. Suck a short sighted view. This person failed to see the long term problems that come with huge population.
-nqk , US
18 April 2013
What idiocy! Does this guy know that in 20 years we will be trying to depopulate this country and many others. The problem will be that we won't need people because we will have robots to do most of the work. So how to depopulate without becoming a Hitler, Stalin or Mao? 1.6 billion Americans I don't think so. They will be as American as New Yorkers which is very American anymore. How about we try to sustain our part of the planet and send this guy to Sri Lanka if he wants to experience high density populations.
-Loren Piller , North Carolina
17 April 2013
Joseph Chamie, you're absolutely right !
The country needs to increase it's population by increasing immigration. All of the studies have shown that in the US, throughout it's history whenever there has been a massive influx of immigrants into the country there have been economic booms.
People are good, population growth is good. More people mean more workers, more innovators, more complex economies, more economic specialization, more prosperity, and more power. Don't believe the Malthusian nonsense that we are running out of resources, because as the price of a commodity rises due to increased demand, there is more incentive to plant/prospect/extract more of it.
China's One Child Policy is going to really, really hurt down the line. Does China want to end up like Japan or Spain with an enormous elderly population consuming pensions that come from an over-taxed working population? One of the reasons Japan is in decline is because of its demographic decline. Young, growing nations hold the future.
-John , California
16 April 2013
That such sentiments can be advanced by an ostensibly educated person at this juncture in the trajectory of the planet's human population is bizarre beyond comprehension. The man should be tied up and forced to listen to audio tapes of Overshoot http://tinyurl.com/dtveq and Man Swarm. http://tinyurl.com/cxzaeup
-George Vye , Ventura, CA