NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 26, 2010

America's population growth makes it a notable outlier among the advanced industrialized countries, says Joel Kotkin, a distinguished presidential fellow at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and an adjunct fellow at the Legatum Institute in London. 

For example: 

  • The country boasts a fertility rate 50 percent higher than that of Russia, Germany or Japan and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, North Korea and virtually all of eastern Europe.
  • Add to that the even greater impact of continued large-scale immigration to America from around the world.
  • By the year 2050, the U.S. population will swell by roughly 100 million, and the country's demographic vitality will drive its economic resilience in the coming decades. 

This places the United States in a radically different position from that of its historic competitors, particularly Europe and Japan, whose populations are stagnant, explains Kotkin.  The contrast between the United States and Russia, America's onetime primary rival for world power, is particularly dramatic: 

  • Some 30 years ago, Russia constituted the core of a vast Soviet empire that was considerably more populous than the United States.
  • Today, even with its energy riches, Russia's low birth and high mortality rates suggest that its population will drop to less than one-third that of the United States by 2050.
  • Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of "the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation." 

An equally dramatic and perhaps more critical demographic shift is taking place in East Asia, says Kotkin: 

  • Over the past few decades a rapid expansion of their work force fueled the rise of the "East Asian tigers," the great economic success stories of the late-20th and early-21st centuries.
  • Yet that epoch is coming to an end, not only in Japan and Korea but also in China, where the one-child policy has set the stage for a rapidly aging population by mid-century. 

Within the next four decades, most of the developed countries in both Europe and East Asia will become veritable old-age homes: A third or more of their populations will be over 65, compared with only a fifth in America.  Like the rest of the developed world, the United States will certainly have to cope with an aging population and lower population growth, but in relative terms the county will boast a youthful, dynamic demographic, says Kotkin. 

Source: Joel Kotkin, "The Kids Will Be Alright," Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2010.


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