Population Numbers, Projections, Graphs and Data


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World population growth

World population continues to increase. With current world population now over 6 billion people,4, 52 there is significant pressure for excess population to migrate from more densely populated countries to those less populated.

world population growth graph


U.S. population growth

The top line of the following graph shows actual U.S. population from 1970 to 1993, and the U.S. Census Bureau "medium projection" of total population size from 1994 to 2050.2 It assumes fertility, mortality, and mass immigration levels will remain similar to 1993. In fact, overall immigration has continued to rise significantly, meaning that population growth will actually be higher than shown below.31

graph of US growth from mass immigration

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; demographer Leon Bouvier11
Roy Beck, Numbers USA

The green lower portion of the graph represents growth from 1970 Americans and their descendants. There were 203 million people living in the U.S. in 1970. The projection of growth in 1970-stock Americans and their descendants from 1994 to 2050 is based on recent native-born fertility and mortality rates. This growth would occur despite below replacement-level fertility rates because of population momentum, where today's children will grow up to have their own children. This segment of Americans is on track to peak at 247 million in 2030 and then gradually decline.11
The red upper portion of the graph represents the difference between the number of 1970-stock Americans and the total population. The tens of millions of people represented by this block are the immigrants who have arrived, or are projected to arrive, since 1970, plus their descendents, minus deaths. They are projected to comprise 70% of all U.S. population growth between 1993 and 205033.


Immigration numbers

History shows the U.S. has traditionally allowed relatively small numbers to immigrate, thus allowing for decades of assimilation. After the peak of about 8.7 million in the first decade of the 20th century (the "great wave"), numbers went steadily down. Immigration averaged only 195,000 per year from 1921 through 1970!40

mass immigration numbers chart: 1820-2010

* Projections and graph courtesy Population Environment Balance, Sources: U.S. Census Bureau2; Statistical Yearbook40, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Average 195,000 per year from 1921-1970


It is helpful to put current immigration statistics in perspective. With the change in immigration law in 1965, mass immigration levels have drifted upward from 250,000 per year to over 1 million per year. In other words, in one year we accept a number equal to what we formerly took in five years; in two years what took a decade, etc. In response to such concerns a national bipartisan committee headed by the late Barbara Jordan concluded that the numbers should be reduced.45, 46, 47 A recently released RAND report41 recommends that the level be reduced.
It is interesting to see how this plays out in the real world. According to journalist Roy Beck, in California it is necessary to construct a new classroom every hour of the day, 24 hours per day 365 days of the year to accommodate immigrant children. The financial cost is borne by native households, who according to a National Academy of Science report, pay an additional $1200 per year in taxes because of mass immigration.42 Even so, the primary concern to environmentalists and Sierra Club members is the tremendous environmental impact that will be incurred as a consequence of continued U.S. population growth.


Can not solve third-world population problems

U.S. overimmigration does not relieve overpopulation problems in third-world countries. Over 4.9 billion people live in countries poorer than Mexico.43 Each year the populations of the world's impoverished nations grow by tens of millions. Mexico grows by 2.5 million per year, Latin America by 9.3 million, South America by 5.4 million, and China by 8.3 million.4 U.S. overimmigration cannot have any significant affect on this number, even at current high mass immigration levels of over 1,000,000 per year.

Exponential growth

U.S. population is projected to double.2 Although current population growth rates are not strictly exponential, an analysis of exponential growth44 reveals how quickly a population can grow. Exponential growth is like compound interest. With 1% growth rate, population will double in 70 years, a 2% growth rate will cause doubling in 35 years, 10% in 10 years. (Divide 70 by the percentage number to get the approximate doubling time).

U.S. population has grown by 1.2% per year over the last 50 years. This "low" growth rate means it has taken only 58 years for our population to double. We can expect this doubling to continue, drastically magnified by the impact of unrealistically high levels of mass immigration.


Rate of Population

Years Required to
Double Population























For a more thorough explanation of exponential growth and
doubling times, see Exponential Growth and The Rule of 7044.


Overimmigration Caused 60% of U.S. Population Growth

The immigration share of U.S. population growth rises continuously as births to recent immigrants are added to the annual flow of new arrivals. The usually reported numbers reflect annual flow. But this flow does not fully represent the impact of mass immigration on population size because the downstream effects, i.e., family formation and births, are ignored.
Total immigration impact is annual immigration plus births to the foreign born minus deaths and emigration of immigrants. The native-born account is births minus deaths and emigration of this sector. Annual population growth is the sum of the immigrant and native born accounts. These calculations for the year 1994, using National Center for Health Statistics (1996) figures on births and deaths14 and Center for Immigration Studies (1995) figures on immigration, yield startling results. The foreign born are about ten percent of the population but had over 18 percent of births. Mass immigration and children born to the foreign-born sector, in 1994, accounted for a net increase of 1.6 million persons, or sixty percent, of the United States' annual population growth.


1994 Category

Native Born

Foreign Born

















(Est.) -250,000

Population Growth




Percentage Share




Analysis Carrying Capacity Network, and Dr. Virginia Abernathy.


Confusion About Numbers

Although the overall number of legal immigrants into the U.S. is readily available, there is no easy answer to the numbers authorized in each legal immigrant category.

Despite much effort, no statement has been found that explains the number of immigrants that legally may be admitted to the U.S. each year. Even the 1994 U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Barbara Jordan, produced no such statement.45, 46, 47

The difficulty arises because the numbers vary from year to year due to a mixture of statutory law, administrative procedures, and prior year admissions.

The following table presents current data as accurately as possible, and includes the Jordan Commission's recommendations.45, 46, 47


Legal Immigrant

1996 U.S.

Legal Limits

Jordan Commission

Family sponsored


Limits are "pierceable"




About 140,000


Diversity programs


About 55,000


Refugee adjustments


About 125,000 +/- 25,000


Asylee adjustments


No practical limit









550,000 +

Analysis courtesy Colorado Population Coalition
Additional data: Federation for American Immigration Reform38

For all practical purposes, the U.S. does not have overall limits on mass immigration, and this is a major reason why the numbers have grown, and will continue to grow, and why the issue needs to be addressed. Rather, the numbers result from the wide range of adult "extended family reunification" categories that have no limits on them. Historically, in the past there were some "caps" included in immigration expansion legislation, but these caps were "pierceable" if the need arose, and since the need always arose, these caps turned out to be meaningless.
Categories, to the extent they exist, are few and small, and are not intended to limit mass immigration, but rather to ensure that certain nationalities that were being squeezed out by the extended family/clan "family reunification" onslaught, have some access to immigration.
This is not to say that a focus on categories or quotas - ratios of categories - is more important than a focus on overall numbers. Quotas aren't an environmental issue, they are a social and legislative issue, and indeed, quotas haven't been implemented for years. The proportion of immigrants allowed under law to enter into the U.S. is not an environmental issue, and there is no reason for environmentalists and the Sierra Club to become involved in this social issue. There is, however, clear reason for environmentalists and the Sierra Club to be concerned with overpopulation as a fundamental environmental issue, and to address both of its causes: increase from natural births and overall immigration numbers.

Causes of U.S. population growth

The legacy of U.S. overpopulation we are leaving to future generations does not have to happen if we recognize and address the causes of our population growth.

Back to:
      U.S. population growth.
      U.S. birth rates and their relationship to population growth.
      U.S. immigration and population growth.
      Global and local solutions and the road to U.S. population stabilization.
Also see:
      Cites and notes for the overview section.
      Population terms.

        Author: Fred Elbel. Edited by Dick Schneider.


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