Declining population growth could threaten social safety net, economic growth

New U.S. Census data shows that the United States’ population growth is slowing down rapidly. The decade spanning 2010 through 2020 is now set to have the smallest decennial population growth rate in American history. 

The combined forces of dropping birth rates, the COVID-19 pandemic, tighter immigration, and other factors have played a role in this decline. 

Beyond the view that growth is good in its own right, this trend is widely viewed to pose a variety of problems for American policymakers and everyday citizens.

As the elderly population swells, the working population is not growing nearly as fast. This discrepancy could cause Social Security, Medicare, and other programs targeted at supporting the elderly to face cuts, or at the least higher costs.

Further, this decline could impact economic output and wage growth. A stagnating workforce typically translates to lower wages, decreased innovation, and depressed economic growth.

William H. Frey, a Fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, argues that expanded immigration is the most immediate and obvious solution to declining population growth: “One way to secure more rapid growth of the youth population would be to increase immigration to three times the current level. Under this scenario, the youth population would increase its growth to 9% over the next 15 years.” Without an expansion of immigration, the youth population would grow at a rate of just about 0%.

Political leaders such as Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have proposed the government step in and support mothers and families so that they might have the economic ability to support more children. Romney’s Family Security Act would eliminate the Child Tax Credit and replace it with a substantial universal child allowance. President Joe Biden and national Democrats passed a temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit into law earlier this year. They are now pushing for making this expansion permanent.

Paid maternity and paternity leave have found bipartisan support. These programs would allow working mothers and fathers more paid time off to take care of their children.

The political dialogue surrounding population growth has taken a turn towards substantive cross-partisan action, and this dynamic is only expected to expand as the reality of declining population growth becomes further realized.

Published by Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts is the Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of the Western Tribune.

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