Population Speculation

With the US population expected to hit the 300 million mark this
week, speculations into the future of America abound. Current
estimates put the 2043 population at an alarming 400 million. Who
will we be? Where will we reside? How will we live?

The answers are anyone’s guess. Number crunchers can make loose
projections based on current trends, but the savvy reader would do
well to bear in mind that there will always be unforeseen factors
impacting those figures. For example, as Joel Garreau notes in the
October issue of
Smithsonian, demographers missed a big
one in neglecting to foresee the impact of birth control on
population numbers. And in his 1968 bestseller, The
Population Bomb
, Paul R. Ehrlich predicted ‘certain’ mass
starvation by 1975, yet today Americans are plagued by obesity.
Despite, or perhaps because of, such goofs, it’s worth looking
at what demographers are forecasting for the next 100 million
Americans.

Not surprisingly, immigration is by far the most widely cited
factor in predicting US population numbers. There are typical
hysterics like Pat Buchanan lamenting the downfall of ‘traditional’
(i.e., white) America, and there are those that say immigration
will help prop up our aging population and keep Social Security
funds rolling in. Another interesting take comes from Bill Glauber
of the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who reports
that the open spaces of the United States will be an added
advantage to adapting to rapid population influxes. Instead of
settling in customary urban melting pots like New York and Los
Angeles, immigrants are repopulating and rejuvenating former
agricultural and industrial centers that had been slowly emptying
out. The sudden surge of immigrants into these areas may have
ignited some of the current debate on immigration, but it’s this
influx, Glauber notes, that could drive the growth and development
many communities are hoping for.

Below are a few more projections that found their way into the
media transom over the last few weeks — some ‘informed
speculation,’ others wild predictions — of what a country of 400
million Americans might be like. Of course, divining the future
through numbers is a tricky business, and the predictions listed
here may say more about us now than in the future.

— ‘Frontier’ land — that with less than six people per square
mile — increases
(Christian Science Monitor)
— More people move to the West and the South
(Christian Science Monitor)
— Immigrants augment a dominantly younger population
(Smithsonian)
— Wealthy, liberal environmentalists buy land in conservative
mountain states, shifting the political balance
(Christian Science Monitor)
— People marry older, have fewer children, and live in bigger
houses
(LiveScience.com)
— Water shortages scourge the West
(Christian Science Monitor)
— Conservation and sustainable development become government
priorities
(Christian Science Monitor)
— Traditional family structures continue to break down
(LiveScience.com)

Go there >>
300 Million and Counting

Go there too >>
The Next 100 Million and the Face of
America

US Population Nears 300 Million as Households
Shrink

American Evolution

Related Links:

Related Links From the Utne
Archive:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to
Utne magazine

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.