The Census Bureau this week unveiled a newly designed population clock, which measures population growth in the United States in real time.
A blue line fills up a rectangular bar every eight seconds, denoting the birth rate, and also marks off a death every 12 seconds. The clock also shows the other driver of population growth — immigration. Counting those who arrive and those who leave, the country adds a net new international migrant every 29 seconds.
The Census Bureau population clock “brings home, I think, to most people that immigration is a major component of population growth.”
Factoring in everything, that’s a net gain of one new U.S. resident every 13 seconds. About 45 percent of that growth is from immigration.
The visual display “brings home, I think, to most people that immigration is a major component of population growth,” said Jack Martin, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
The net migration estimate comes to an annual gain of nearly 1.1 million. That estimate includes both legal and illegal immigrants, as well as people living in the United States on temporary visas, such as international students studying at American universities.
And Martin noted that the true impact of immigration is even greater because the agency’s population clock does not account for the immigrants’ U.S. born children, who automatically become American citizens. That adds even more people to the country.
According to a report in October by the Center for Immigration Studies, America in 2014 had 42.4 million residents who were born in other countries. Their U.S.-born children younger than 18 totaled another 16.7 million people. The combined total of 59.1 million made up nearly a fifth of the U.S. population.
To immigration proponents, this is all good news. Without the infusion of foreigners every year, population would level off and — with declining birth rates — could begin to fall. That has raised concerns in Japan and some European countries with birth rates well below America.
Martin acknowledged that immigration undoubtedly increases the size of the pie — the greater the population, the bigger the overall economy.
“But that ignores the difference between increases on gross national product and growth in gross national product per capita,” he said.
In other words, Martin said, more consumers and producers may produce more national wealth, but it leaves many people worse off if the gains are not great enough to outpace the population increase. He noted that low-wage workers see lower pay when forced to compete with large numbers of low-skill, low-education immigrants.
Immigrants without advanced education also tend to cost more in government-assistance programs. A Center for Immigration Studies report last year showed that more than half of all immigrant households use at least one income-based government program.
Beyond those concerns, more people exacerbate issues like traffic congestion, urban sprawl, and consumption of water, metals, and other finite resources, according to Martin.
Martin said FAIR supports recommendations made by a commission headed by then-Rep. Barbara Jordan (D-Texas) in the 1990s to reduce immigration to about 550,000 a year in order to boost wages of low-wage American workers. Congress could make a significant impact by restricting so-called “chain migration,” allowing immigrants to sponsor only immediate family members to come to the United States instead of extended relatives.
Without a major policy change, Martin said, the numbers almost certainly will continue to exceed 1 million new arrivals a year.
“It’s been steadily increasing, and it will likely continue to increase,” he said.