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COVID-19, Declining Birth Rates and International Migration Resulted in Historically Small Population Gains

Luke Rogers

The U.S. population grew at a slower rate in 2021 than in any other year since the founding of the nation, based on historical decennial censuses and annual population estimates.

The U.S. Census Bureau Vintage 2021 Population Estimates released today show that population grew only 0.1% and that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the slower growth the country has experienced in recent years.

Apart from the last few years, when population growth slowed to historically low levels, the slowest rate of growth in the 20th century was from 1918-1919 amid the influenza pandemic and World War I.

The year 2021 is the first time since 1937 that the U.S. population grew by fewer than one million people, featuring the lowest numeric growth since at least 1900, when the Census Bureau began annual population estimates.

Apart from the last few years, when population growth slowed to historically low levels, the slowest rate of growth in the 20th century was from 1918-1919 amid the influenza pandemic and World War I.

 

 

Slower population growth has been a trend in the United States for several years, the result of decreasing fertility and net international migration, combined with increasing mortality due to an aging population.

In other words, since the mid-2010’s, births and net international migration have been declining at the same time deaths have been increasing. The collective impact of these trends is slower population growth.

This trend has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a historically slow population increase in 2021 (Figure 2).

 

 

Today’s release of the Vintage 2021 estimates includes a blog and America Counts stories that explain how the impacts of COVID-19 and other unique challenges were accounted for in this year’s estimates, including more detail on net international migration and Puerto Rico migration.

The Census Bureau will continue to release more details from Vintage 2021 next year, including more comprehensive data and analyses on the distinctive trends in this series of estimates.

State Population Changes

The tables below show the states that gained the most population and those that lost the most from 2020 to 2021.

 

 

Luke Rogers is chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Branch.

 

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DATA GEMS: How We Estimate the Population in the United States

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