U.S. Population and Immigration

This is a preliminary abstract from the study. It will be updated as the study progresses and the full study will be published on-line when it is complete. Comments are solicited.


The objective of this study is to develop a better understanding of the process of population growth and decline, the factors that drive it and the factors that are affected by it. This is the field of social demography. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography . The key concept is that of a “sustainable population”. That is, the number of people that can be supported within a given geographic area considering the rates at which they consume natural resources compared to available resources AND the rates at which they produce waste or pollution compared to the capacity of available sinks. In particular, I hope to use this understanding of sustainable population as a basis for policy decisions pertaining to immigration.


This study is concerned primarily with population trends within the US but will include other geographic areas to the extent that their experience or impact is relevant. In particular note that we are concerned not just with the population itself but also with the impact that the population has upon its social, economic, political and physical environment, Its SUSTAINABILITY.  I will try to determine what levels of population are sustainable within the US at current consumption levels. (possibly at a couple of alternative consumption levels)

Within this broad scope, I will also try to understand the process of migration, its causes and in particular the probable impact of increasing global population on migration patterns. In particular I want to understand immigration trends and their effect upon overall population levels and their effect on the cultural evolutionary process within the US.  I will also attempt to document the current legislation within both House and Senate pertaining to immigration and on administrative changes pertaining to the current immigration laws and try to draw some conclusions as to how these changes and proposed changes might affect the outcomes of said evolutionary process.  As the 2017 Government enters its first 100 days, I will also try to estimate the probable effect of their proposed changes to legislation and administrative directives.


For several decades I have been concerned about world population and the planet’s ability to support the projected numbers.  In particular, I have been concerned about the level of population in the US. An analysis that I did when in college (1950’s) indicated that the US population should level off at about 250 million. This was based upon my hypothesis that a given geographic area can only support a certain number of people depending upon its available natural resources. Once the population exceeds that limit, misery begins to prevail and the fertility rate declines while the mortality rate increases. That hypothesis may or may not be valid. The US population is currently at 315 million and growing. Misery per se has not developed but enough pressure has developed to cause a decline in fertility rates and a relatively modest level of discontent. On the other hand mortality rates have declined significantly and average life expectancy has continued to increase. The increasing life span is the primary cause of our population growth. A secondary cause is immigration, both legal and illegal. The impact of this increasing population upon our cultural evolution is not clear. However, there are distinct sub cultures developing. Whether it is due to increasing population, increasing diversity, technological change or all of the above, I don’t know.

A recent surge in migration of both refugees and economic migrants into both the UE and the US has raised concern in both areas.  

Legislation in regard to Immigration failed to pass during 2013 – 2015 and there is nothing pending in 2016. Meanwhile, President Obama is doing what he can through Executive Orders and some Individual states and even local communities are doing what they can through various legislative moves. However, neither the Administration, nor Congress seem to be viewing the situation through the lens of Sustainability.

Europe is at about the same stage of analysis/solution but several of the member states are in fact considering sustainability in the development of their policy. “Brexit” is one result.  


The US does not have a policy on Population. We should. It should be based upon sustainability in light of available resources. Within the limits defined by that policy, we should develop a policy on Migration including Immigration and Emigration.

Considering current circumstances, sustainability of our current level of population is questionable particularly at their current rate of consumption.

We currently have an Immigration policy. I don’t think it has any logical foundation but we have an immigration policy. Obviously, we have been either unwilling or unable to enforce it.

As a nation we need to determine the level of population that is sustainable at several different levels of consumption (probably have to use a surrogate measure such as energy consumption). Once that is established and compared to the current situation we can determine the best course of action going forward. My gut feeling is that we will determine that we are already over populated for our current level of consumption and will decide (or be forced by natural limits) both to reduce consumption levels per capita and reduce population as well. The probable social and economic impact of such an outcome would be very difficult to manage. We are currently backing into this dilemma via the “Climate Change” debate.

Immigration obviously has a direct impact on population. It also has a less direct impact on almost every aspect of our socio/cultural evolution including the economic, political, social, … spheres. Determining and/or evaluating the probable effect of immigration on the evolution of our culture is beyond the capability of our current analytical tools. We are reduced to expressions of common wisdom such as; “We are a nation of immigrants so immigration must be a good thing.” – Try selling that to Native Americans.

Meanwhile, the President’s “Blueprint” seems to be an honest attempt to do what he can to address the most obvious and pressing social problems.  Most of it can be implemented without additional legislation although there are some aspects that would benefit from cooperation by the legislature. Unfortunately it’s like applying a band aid to a case of gangrene. As of yet, nobody seems to realize the magnitude of the broader problem of sustainability.


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