Immigration Is No Fix for an Aging Society

Center for Immigration Studies, March 13, 2015

Some have argued for large-scale immigration on the grounds that it will make the U.S. population much younger. But those who study demographics have long known that immigration has only a small impact on slowing the aging of society. Further, a new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigrant fertility is declining faster than native fertility, making the impact even smaller.

“Those, like Jeb Bush, who assert that ‘immigrants are more fertile’ and as a result they will ‘rebuild the demographic pyramid’ are grossly exaggerating the impact of immigration,” stated Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center’s Director of Research. “Immigration’s impact on the aging of American society is actually quite small, and the rapid decline in immigrant fertility means it’s getting even smaller.”

View the entire report here.

• The birth rate for women in their reproductive years (ages 15 to 50) declined more than twice as much for immigrants as natives between 2008 and 2013.

• The birth rate for immigrant women of reproductive age declined from 76 to 62 births per thousand from 2008 to 2013–a decline of 14 births per thousand. In contrast, native fertility declined from 55 births per thousand to 50 births per thousand–a decline of five births per thousand.

• Although still higher than that of natives, immigrant fertility has only a small impact on the nation’s overall birth rate. The presence of immigrants raises the birth rate for all women in their reproductive years by just two births per thousand (4 percent).

• Immigration has a small impact because the difference between immigrant and native fertility is too small to significantly change the nation’s overall birth rate.

• Even if the number of immigrant women 15 to 50 doubled along with births to this population, it would still only raise the nation’s overall birth rate by 3 percent.

• In addition to births per thousand, fertility is often measured using the total fertility rate (TFR). The TFR reports the number of children a woman can be expected to have in her lifetime based on current patterns.

• Like the birth rate, the TFR of immigrants has declined more rapidly than the TFR for natives since 2008. In 2008, immigrant women had a TFR of 2.75 children; by 2013 it had fallen to 2.22–a .53 child decline. For natives it declined from 2.07 to 1.79–a .28 child decline.

• Like births per thousand, the presence of immigrants in the country has only a small impact on the nation’s overall TFR. In 2013, immigrants only increased the nation’s overall TFR by .08 children (4 percent).

• If present trends continue, the TFR of immigrants may drop below 2.1 in the next few years, the level necessary to replace the existing population. An immigrant TFR of less than 2.1 would mean that, in the long run, immigration would add to the aging of American society.

• Although immigration has only a small impact on overall fertility and aging, it has a significant impact on population size. For example, new immigrants and births to immigrants between 2000 and 2013 added 26.2 million people to the country–equal to 77 percent of U.S. population growth over this time period.

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