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Immigration, Population and the Labor Market: Toward a Fair System for American Workers
An NPG Forum Paper
by John Thompson
Since 2016, the public has become increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the present immigration system while seeking new directions for reform. One precondition for building a better system is to understand the impact of immigration on population, the labor market and economic well-being.
A GLOBAL VIEW OF POPULATION
Demographic trends in this country are best interpreted as part of a steady but asymmetric worldwide progression toward lower fertility and population growth. As income and education rise and societies become more urban and complex, individuals everywhere reduce family size.
According to the United Nations, during the period 1975-80 some 23% of the world’s population lived in high fertility countries, i.e., where the fertility rate (average number of births per woman over her lifetime) was greater than 5. Slightly more than half of the world’s population lived in intermediate fertility countries (rates of 2.1 to 5) and only 21% lived in countries of low fertility (i.e. less than 2.1, the estimated “replacement level” below which population eventually declines). By 2010-15, only 8% of the world lived in high fertility countries, with 46% each in intermediate and low fertility countries. By 2050 no countries will have high fertility, leaving only intermediate and low fertility countries, with some 70% of the world’s people living in countries with sub-replacement fertility.
While this trend is universal, population growth is decelerating at different rates in different parts of the world. Most advanced countries are now approaching stable or declining natural population growth and the middle-income countries of Asia and Latin America are expected to reach negative population growth later in the century. Yet, as the Table shows, world population is still projected to grow through 2100. Declining population in most regions will be offset by continued population growth in 1) some countries (mainly in Africa and the Middle East) with positive fertility and 2) a handful of advanced countries, including the United States, with low or sub-replacement fertility and high immigration.[…]
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