Friday, October 06, 2006

America at 300,000,000

Any day now the Bureau of the Census front page will show the U.S. achieving a milestone as its population passes 300,000,000. It passed 200 million circa 1970, and it is interesting to see the way in which the country and its people have changed since then.

First, as the picture below suggests, the population is older but not that much older.

The median age of the population was 27.9 in 1960, and 33.4 in 2000. The baby boom is visible in both curves, but a noticeable baby boom echo is also present in the 2000 curve, bolstered by a significant amount of immigration.

Other data of interest:

Married families as percentage of all families45 (1960)23.5
Children in single-parent homes9% (1960)27%
Household median income (in 2000 dollars)*35,850 (1980)40,816
Foreign-born as a percentage of total population4.711.1
Percentage of people living in poverty13.9 (1965)8.7
Lawyers/1000 population1.25**3.5 (1998)
Doctors/1000 population1.24**7.7 (1998)
Union percentage of labor force25**12 (1998)
Cohabiting couples (percentage of all couples)1.2**7.1
Weekly religious attendance40%40% (1998)

* Households have changed significantly during this period.
** Estimated from graph in book The First Measured Century

Another tidbit which can be gleaned from census data include that "black" females have for some time earned upwards of 98% of what "white”females do. ("Black" males still earn significantly less than "white” males, but this, like all figures here, is before standardizing for such things as education and experience.) Overall, median real "non-Hispanic white" male income has increased 8.8% between 1970 and 2004, "non-Hispanic white" female income has increased 77.9%, "black" male income has increased 29.7%, "black" female income has increased 99.8%, "Hispanic" male income has increased 49.5%, and "Hispanic" female income has increased 113.8%. The Census Bureau has only had a designation for "Hispanic" since 1972, so that is the base year for all categories with the word "Hispanic" in them. For whatever reason, the bureau changed "Asian/Pacific Islander" to simply "Asian" in 2002. It has only been keeping track of even that category since 1988. From 1988-2004, male income for this group has increased 16.1%, and female income 44.8%. I confess I am totally shocked by the weak performance of median income for "non-Hispanic white" males. There is much talk of a crisis among boys in the educational system, for which the book The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men is the most common reference. It is obviously a complicated question, but the income data here at leased to provide something in need of explanation.

The flow of legal permanent residents was 373,326 1970 and 1,120,273 in 2005 – a 200.7% increase at a time when the population overall increased, obviously, by 50%. (All immigration data come from the US government's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.) From 1970-1979, 19.4% of permanent residents came from Europe, 33.1% from Asia, 40.6% from Latin America, and 1.7% from Africa. In 2005, these figures were Europe 16.1%, Asia 34.1%, Latin America 35.9%, and Africa 7.1%. Africa aside, these are not big changes; the biggest ethnic change in American legal immigration was spurred in 1965, by changes that year to immigration quotas. The biggest surge in permanent resident flow came from 1989-1991, shortly after the Simpson-Mazzoli law gave extensive amnesty to those who were here illegally; although permanent residents are obviously here legally, the signaling function of that law suggests that incentives do indeed matter. (Indeed, much of this may have been the legalization of previously a legal aliens given amnesty by that law.) Immigration has been permanently higher since that law, but faded in 2003, presumably because of some combination of anxiety among would-be immigrants generated by the September 11 attacks and the collapse of the tech bubble. But it has since resumed, and so the country will inevitably become more ethnoreligiously scrambled and complex, suggesting that we give long, hard thought to the question of how we can all get along.

Is 300,000,000 Americans, let alone 400,000,000, too many? Only to environmental hysterics, who bemoan the allegedly overconsumptive tendencies of Americans while ignoring their disproportionate contributions to global innovation. If you think the country is apart from that too crowded, simply look down the next time you are on a plane. You will see then how underpopulated a country it really is.


Post a Comment

<< Home