The 2020 U.S. Census looms, with concerns that the foreign-born population and their family members, among others, may not wish to provide information to the government. A potential undercount could hinder both representation and funding for critical services. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau released several reports in February 2020 with alternative scenarios and demographic projections for the future. Below are highlights.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in July 2019 that the Commerce Department cannot include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, concerns are high that the census, which begins in April, may not result in a full count of the U.S. population due to fears and concerns about how the information collected may be used. An inaccurate count may lead to problems in representation and funding. Many respondents to a survey of attitudes toward the census reported concerns that their answers will be used against them, and distrust of all levels of government was high for everyone. Fewer than seven in 10 householders said they intended to fill out the census form.
The U.S. Census Bureau has asked for driver’s license records from states to help the Bureau gather data, including on citizenship status. The Bureau said that such data would be “stripped of all personally identifiable information” and would not be shared with any government or law enforcement agencies, noting that “all census data can only be used to produce statistics.”
A report on the survey and related analysis notes that people might be persuaded of the importance and purpose of the census if they make the connection between completing a census form and the possibility of an increase in funding or support for their community, notably in support of critical community institutions, organizations, and services.
The “invitations to participate” in the 2020 Census will begin arriving in households across the United States between March 12 and March 20, 2020.
The U.S. Census Bureau notes that the 2017 National Projections Main Series, released in 2018, presents one scenario for the future population of the United States that “will only hold true if the assumptions about births, deaths, and migration match the actual trends in these components of population change.” International migration is difficult to project due to trends and pressures that are “nearly impossible to anticipate,” including political and economic conditions. A new report, A Changing Nation: Population Projections Under Alternative Immigration Scenarios, offers three alternate sets of projections that use the same methodology and assumptions for fertility, mortality, and emigration but differ in the levels of immigration they assume: high (defined as a 50 percent increase), low, and zero immigration. The report compares the results from the three alternative scenarios and the main series, “focusing on differences in the pace at which the U.S. population grows, diversifies, and ages.”
Among other things, the report notes that beyond influencing the number of people in the U.S. population, immigration patterns over the next 40 years will also shape its racial and ethnic composition. In 2016, Asians were the fastest-growing racial group in the nation, and immigration was the primary driver behind the growth in this group, the report points out. If immigration increases, the Asian population could grow by as much as 162 percent and go from 5.7 percent of the total U.S. population to 10.8 percent. The future size of this population is particularly sensitive to immigration, the report notes. Under the opposite scenario with no immigration, however, the Asian alone population in the United States would decline over time, representing just 4.5 percent of the total population by 2060.
The report points out that in all of the immigration scenarios, the Bureau projects declines in the share of the total U.S. population that is white. Anoter consistent pattern projected in all scenarios is the multiple-race population growing faster than single-race groups. For the Hispanic population, increases are projected in all scenarios, ranging from 43 million in the low-immigration scenario to 71 million in the high-immigration scenario. Even with zero immigration, the Hispanic population would increase from 18 percent as of 2016 to 24 percent in 2060.
Demographic Turning Points
The Bureau notes that the year 2030 will mark a demographic turning point for the United States: beginning that year, according to projections, all baby boomers will be older than 65 years of age, and one in every five Americans will be of retirement age. By 2034, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. Also, in 2030, because of population aging, immigration is projected to overtake natural increase (excess of births over deaths) as the primary driver of population growth for the United States.
Projections beyond 2030 indicate that the U.S. population will grow slowly and become more racially and ethnically diverse, according to Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060. The report focuses on 2030 as a demographic turning point but explores broader changes in the age, race, and ethnic composition of the U.S. population from 2020 to 2060.
Among other things, the report notes that beginning in 2030, net international migration is expected to overtake natural increase as the driver of population growth in the United States because of population aging. That year, the United States is projected to add 1 million people by natural increase (the number of births minus deaths) but 1.1 million through net international migration, the report states.
The report also says that the United States is projected to continue becoming a more racially and ethnically pluralistic society. The fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States is people who are two or more races, who are projected to grow some 200 percent by 2060, the report notes. The next fastest is the Asian population, which is projected to double, followed by Hispanics, whose population will nearly double. Non-Hispanic whites are projected to remain the single largest race group throughout the next 40 years, but beginning in 2045, they are no longer projected to make up the majority of the U.S. population, the report notes.
- A Changing Nation: Population Projections Under Alternative Immigration Scenarios, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1146.pdf
- Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.pdf
- 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study Survey Report, https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/final-analysis-reports/2020-report-cbams-study-survey.pdf
- S. Census Bureau Statement on State Data Sharing Agreements, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/state-data-sharing-agreements.html
- Press release on start of census, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2020/one-month-2020-invitations.html
- Summary and commentary about the citizenship question, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/four-takeaways-supreme-courts-census-citizenship-question-ruling