- White and youth population losses contributed most to the nation’s growth slowdown, new census data reveals
revious analyses of Census Bureau estimates make plain that the nation’s population growth has ground down to a historic low: only 0.1% growth between July 2020 and July 2021. During this prime year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of deaths rose sharply, births declined, and immigration reached its lowest levels in decades. At the same time, population movement within the U.S. led to sharp declines in many of its largest metro areas―particularly in these areas’ biggest cities.
This report focuses on annual changes from July 2016 to July 2017 through July 2020 to July 2021. This period includes three years prior to the pandemic, one year with partial pandemic exposure (2019 to 2020), and one year with full pandemic exposure (2020 to 2021). This allows for an assessment of race-ethnic and age shifts before and during the pandemic.
This is also a significant period because, as a previous report shows, the nation’s white population began to decline in 2016. This initial white population loss occurred before the pandemic and is related to the aging of the white population, which has led to fewer births and more deaths―losses that are projected to continue. And as shown below, the pandemic has exacerbated this white population loss.
The examination of age shifts shows a loss of young people under age 18 and those in their prime working ages (18 through 59). Moreover, when looking at age and race, it becomes clear that nonwhite Americans, especially Latino or Hispanic Americans, comprise larger shares of the population at all ages.
This report also revisits earlier analyses of notable population declines in large metro areas and big cities. It shows that most of those declines are due to white population losses, both from the national white population decline as well as white population movement to smaller-sized places.
While these trends are exaggerated in the prime pandemic year, it is plain to see that the nation is facing a long-term transition toward greater diversity and aging, both nationally and across large swaths of the country.
WHITE POPULATION LOSSES CONTRIBUTED THE MOST TO THE PANDEMIC YEAR GROWTH SLOWDOWN
The nation’s population grew by a mere 392,665 during the prime pandemic period of July 2020 to July 2021―down from over 1 million in each of the three previous years, and over 2 million for 2016-17. Yet when looking at these trends for major race-ethnic groups, it was the increased loss in the white population (to -878,693) which accounted for most of the nation’s growth decline.