US Population Growth Dips to Lowest Ever During Pandemic: Here’s Why

by Jennifer Shea

U.S. population growth dropped to its lowest level since America’s founding from July 2020 to July 2021. With a 0.1 percent population growth rate, only 392,665 people joined the U.S. population during that time, new Census data show.

Here’s why. For one thing, the coronavirus pandemic persuaded many couples to put off having children. Hospitals were full of COVID-19 patients. And loved ones weren’t allowed to accompany pregnant women into the delivery room.

For another, immigration also declined during that time period, the Daily Mail reports. Legal immigration basically ground to a standstill in April 2020 as former President Trump suspended new visas to most types of immigrants. Illegal immigration also declined in the face of stricter border rules and a slowing U.S. economy.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration,” Kristie Wilder, a Census Bureau demographer, told the Daily Mail. “All while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population. Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in an historically slow pace of growth.”

Population Growth Is Now Rebounding Due To Uptick in Migration

This is not the first pandemic to affect population growth. During the Spanish Flu pandemic, U.S. population growth slowed to historic lows, as well.

But population growth is now trending upwards again. That’s due largely to an uptick in migration driven by a surge in illegal border crossings after President Joe Biden took office.

By November, the number of immigrants in the U.S. had increased by 1.5 million over this time last year after declining in 2020, according to the Daily Mail. Foreign-born residents now comprise 14.2 percent of the U.S. population. That’s the highest percentage in 111 years.

Moreover, international migration outstripped increases due to native births for the first time ever. The former brought in 245,000 new residents over the past year while the latter added about 148,000 people to the U.S. population.

Some States Saw More Growth Than Others

Over the past year, 33 states enjoyed population upticks. Meanwhile, 17 states plus Washington, D.C. saw an exodus of residents.

Among those was California, which lost citizens to neighboring states, including Idaho, whose population grew 2.9 percent during the year, the most of any state. It was followed by Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas and South Carolina.

The biggest loser was New York, which saw the sharpest population drop, followed closely by Illinois, Hawaii and California.