Pandemic and population growth

Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist

In a recent report from the Census Bureau comes this: “U.S. population grew 0.1% in 2021, the slowest rate since the founding of the nation.”

I think we should not be surprised by this, but it certainly is newsworthy! The population of the U.S. is approximately 330 million; this means that a 0.1% growth rate in 2021 resulted in the addition of fewer than one million added to the total numbers – the first time since 1937 we added less than one million.

Population growth in the U.S. has been slowing for years due to three factors – decreasing fertility, diminishing migration, and increasing mortality due to an aging population. Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic and we have the record of 2021.

In 1900 our percentage of population grown was two percent!

We have a mobile population and that is evident when one looks at the changes in state populations. The changes for just one year (July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021) show that 33 states recorded a net gain during 2021 while 17 and the District of Columbia reported losses.

On an absolute basis, Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia recorded the most growth. The states that lost the most numbers were California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts.

The Census cautiously reports some interest statistics: “Anecdotal data from moving companies show migration trends are being driven by job opportunities, housing affordability and other quality-of-life concerns. Retiree markets including Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas, and Nevada all posted large gains, reflecting an acceleration in retirements and early retirements.”

This was the first time I ran across the concept of “The Great Resignation”, which refers to the large number of people moving for reasons other than those mention above.

World statistics for COVID-19 place the deaths per million at 702, or 5.5+ million total deaths. The country with the most deaths per million population is Peru in South America with 6,093 per million, followed by Bulgaria in Europe with 4,646.

The country with the largest number of cumulative COVID-19 deaths is the U.S. with nearly 818,000 followed by Brazil with almost 617,000. Eight small countries report no cases — primarily island communities such as Falkland Islands, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, but also including the Holy See, as well as North Korea.

These statistics are reported and aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, but it must be remembered that they are self-reported and some countries may not have the facilities to collect such and others could see some benefit in distorting the facts – North Korea comes to mind! On the other hand, like isolated islands, North Korea is insulated from the outside world.

The presence of COVID-19 in our world will bring changes that we can only imagine now. Will we live with its presence and will there be new more dangerous varieties emerging? Will populations not only slow growth rates, as in the U.S., or will they start to decline?

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist