I’ve been thinking about how our population seems to have exploded lately and how our lifestyles have changed. Our country didn’t see 100 million population until 1900. Also in 1900 50 percent of our population were on farms raising the food to feed the other 50 percent. Today only about 2 percent of our population live on farms and feed the rest of us better than ever.
A little over 100 years later we’ve tripled that number and in less
than 30 years it is expected to rise by another 100 million. Obviously technology played a big part in this, but when people migrated from the farms they took careers of all sorts that helped our country prosper. But what is this going to cost us?
We could control our population in several differnt ways. One way would be to limit the number of children a woman could have, which would lead to a society with a larger percentage of older people. We could euthanize the eldest in our country and thus have a larger percentage of younger people. Or we could strengthen and enforce our laws on immigration. Sound crazy? I’ll explain.
Population grows with a combination of more births than deaths, greater longevity, and immigration. One measurement of the birth rate is TFR for Total Fertility Rate, or total babies per woman. A population will replenish itself with a TFR of 2.1. In 2007 America had a TFR of 2.0. While this sounds high, Japan, Russia, and all of Europe had a TFR of 1.3 in 2007.
In 2007, life expectancy was 77.7 in the U.S., 81.2 in Japan, and 78.7 in Germany. That year experts also said life expectancy is increasing at a rate of around 3 months per year internationally. Our life expectancy in America has risen from 49 years of age in 1900 to 77.7 years of age in 2007.
Based again on 2007 data the immigration rate into the U.S. was at 3.5 per 1,000 residents according to the Center for Immigration Studies. That number is down from a 150 year average but up significatly from the 2.0 of the ’50s and ’60s.
So far we seem to be doing ok with this setup; but will it last? With 400 million residents in 2030 and the percentage of our population growing our food shrinking there could be problems. With the over 65 crowd the numbers look good. While Germany is supposed to have 27 percent of it’s population over 65 by 2030, and Japan 30 percent, America will only have 19 percent of our population over 65.
So we may have some hard choices ahead. We could pass laws that women could only have a certain number of children which would shift us to an aging population. We could get rid of our elder citizens which since I’m knocking on that door isn’t an option. We could break tradition and restrict immigration which would get a lot of people screaming. Or we could take a wait and see approach and work toward a solution that makes everybody happy. I’ll choose the last option.
Comments are always welcome.