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Lawler: Update on US Demographic Drivers in 2021

From housing economist Tom Lawler: Update on US Demographic Drivers in 2021

Births: Provisional data from the CDC show that US births totaled 978,000 in the third quarter of 2021, up 2.8% from the comparable quarter of 2020. While births in the first nine months of 2021 were down 0.18% from the comparable period of 2020, the trend in births began increasing in the second half of last year. Assuming this trend continued through last quarter – and adjusting for the normal seasonal pattern of births – a “best guess” for total US births in 2021 would be about 3.64 million. That level would be about 0.7% above 2020’s historically low level, though it would still be the second lowest annual number of births since 1981.

Deaths: Provisional data from the CDC indicate that there have been 3,427,882 US deaths reported for 2021 as of 2/9/2022, up from 3,382,729 deaths in 2020. Because of reporting delays in some parts of the country the 2021 final death numbers will be somewhat higher (e.g., total deaths in the latest report were 5,603 higher than in the previous week’s report), and a “best guess” for 2021 deaths would probably be about 3.44 million.

Net International Migration: While there are no timely data on net international migration, there are some indicators that suggest that US immigration increased significantly in the second half of last year from the incredibly low levels of the previous 18 months.

In the Department of Homeland Security’s recently released report on Legal Immigration through the third calendar quarter (and FY Q4) OF 2021, report showed that the number of new arrivals obtaining legal permanent status in the third quarter of last year totaled 104,308, the largest number since the first quarter of 2020.

The U.S Department of State’s data on monthly immigrant visa issuance show that such issuance, which was incredibly low in the last nine months of 2020 and the first few months of 2021, increased significantly beginning in the Spring of last year.

It is not clear, of course, how these indicators translate into net international migration – there are NO data on US emigration, and these indicators are not comprehensive. In year addition, Census has not yet released its updated historical estimates of net international migration (the estimate for the year ending 7/1/2021 was 244,622) However, it seems clear that net international migration was significantly higher in the second half of last year compared to the first half of last year. If I had to guess, I would guess that net international migration in calendar year 2001 was about 450,000.

If that were the case, and if the birth and death numbers I showed in the above were correct, then the US resident population last year would have increased by 650,000, or 0.2%. While such growth is historically extremely low, it is actually somewhat higher than the Census estimate for growth from 7/1/2020 to 7/1/2021 (392,665, or 0.1%).

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