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A 13 percent increase in population size in the 1990s helped the United States maintain its position as the third most populous country in the world, according to an analysis released today by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau.
According to the Census 2000 brief titled, The United States in International Context, with a population of 281 million people, this country had more people in 2000 than any other nation in the world, except China (1.3 billion) and India (1 billion). The world's population stood at 6.1 billion.
Peter Way, chief of the Census Bureau's International Programs Center, said, "The size of a country's total population tells only a small part of its demographic story. A country's population growth rate and its age-sex composition indicate the challenges it faces in providing health care for its children and elderly, providing education to its youth, providing employment opportunities for its young adults and supporting its elderly population."
The United States ranked fourth among all countries with 3 percent of the world's under-15 population and third among all countries with 8 percent of the world's elderly population.
The brief noted a shift in age structures in the United States and other developed countries. For example, the population of children under age 5 in many developed countries declined in the late 1990s. Low-fertility countries, it said, will be confronted in the coming decades with growing elderly populations and fewer workers entering the labor force.
During the 1990s, the U.S. population, which represents less than 5 percent of the world's people, grew five times the percentage increase of all other industrialized countries combined: 13 percent versus 2.5 percent. Other big gainers among the world's largest countries in the 1990s were: India, which grew 19 percent; China, 11 percent; Nigeria, 33 percent; and Indonesia, 19 percent. Together with the United States, they accounted for nearly half of the global population increase in the decade.
The United States outstripped all other developed countries in population growth, according to the study, because of lower fertility in most other industrialized countries, combined with substantial immigration to the United States.
The brief is part of a series that analyzes population and housing data collected from Census 2000. It includes data from the Census Bureau's international database, which covers 227 countries with populations of 5,000 or more.