While other developed countries have seen population growth slow or stop, in the US the population has continued to grow steadily in recent years. In the inter-census decade 1970-80 growth was 11.4%, almost equal to that of the previous decade (+ 11.8%), and in the following years the pace did not decline significantly. The number of residents thus increased from 203.3 million (1970) to 226.5 million (1980) and 248.7 million (1990). The projections for 2010 foresee a growth that in the intermediate hypothesis should lead to 298 million residents (317 million as a maximum, 278 as a minimum).
The birth rate has quite high rates, although not at the levels of the baby boom of the years 1946-55: currently it remains at 15.6 ÷ 15.8 ‰, with a slight increase compared to the lows of 15ı in the 1970s. In part, the still high birth rate is to be attributed to the demographic behavior of specific ethnic groups: it is in fact higher than the average in the black community and in that of Latin American origin. Imbalances are also noted in geographic distribution: Alaska and Utah have the highest rates, due to young age in the first state and Mormon religious prevalence in the second, while in Texas, New Mexico, District of Columbia and Louisiana, the highest rates they can be linked to the aforementioned ethnic motivation.
Mortality also has fairly constant rates, stabilized in recent years around 8.5 ÷ 8.7ı per year; these levels had already been reached for several years. Only the components of mortality have changed: today the causes of death linked to the ever-increasing number of elderly people are the main component, while infant mortality, previously significant, has decreased to very low levels (10ı). Even in this case, however, there is an ethnic difference: the mortality of the black community is still connected to a relatively high infant mortality, and in any case approximately double that of whites (17 ÷ 18ı). The global natural balance of the US is positive, for a growth of about 2 million residents per year, equal to the rate of 0.8% on average.
The life expectancy of the US population has risen from 70 years (at birth) in 1965 to about 77 in 1992. However, gender and race differences remained. Among whites, the man has a life expectancy of 74 and the woman 79 years; among blacks, the figures are 65 for men and 73 for women.
The composition of the population by sex remains in favor of the female part, which is 51.2% of the total (1991), almost the same as in 1970. Instead, the composition by age sees a slow and progressive aging of the population. The median age, of 30 in 1980, jumped to 33.1 in 1991. Aging is expected to increase as the aforementioned baby boom generation approaches middle age. The current percentage of elderly people (aged 65 and over) is 12.6, equal to about 32 million people, against 65 million young people under 18 (26% of the total). The share of elderly people is expected to rise to 13% in 2000 and to even higher figures in the first decades of the next century, in which there will be one elderly person in 5 residents: the situation with respect to the group of young people will be reversed.
The problems for the future are easy to understand, but already now the attention towards the elderly sees a contradictory situation. The consumer goods and durable goods market has moved rapidly: as an example we recall that the magazine Modern Maturity (22.8 million copies) is the first in the country by circulation, and is a vehicle for advertising promotion of specialized products. The market for ” alternative ” housing has also seen a sharp increase: these are real retirement homes, together with housing communities, villages reserved for the elderly or simply low-cost homes provided with some service for the elderly. But, on the other hand, there are negative aspects and the income enjoyed by retired elderly people is the most serious problem. Pensions are quite low, and the income of those who retire from work suddenly drops by a third or even half, with the consequence that many elderly people find themselves facing a state of poverty for the first time in their life. Indeed, about one in eight retirees have an income below the official poverty line, that is, generally equal to or less than half the national average. The situation is even worse for women, for the elderly over 80, for the less favored minorities. An elderly black retiree has a 60% chance of having an income below the poverty line. As a response to the inconvenience, some look for a new job, perhaps part-time, others change residence, looking for places with a cheaper cost of living. has a 60% chance of having an income below the poverty line. As a response to the inconvenience, some look for a new job, perhaps part-time, others change residence, looking for places with a cheaper cost of living. has a 60% chance of having an income below the poverty line. As a response to the inconvenience, some look for a new job, perhaps part-time, others change residence, looking for places with a cheaper cost of living.
Immigration is no longer the factor of population growth it was in the past. Approximately 700,000 new foreigners cross borders legally each year (1981-90 average). Above all, the origin has definitely changed: the European contribution has almost disappeared, the Latin American origin dominates (Mexico, Caribbean and Central American area). To the aforementioned figures we must add a greater number of seasonal immigration in the border states with Mexico, plus clandestine immigration that is difficult to assess, also because it is widely tolerated in periods of economic expansion. These new contributions, combined with the already mentioned differentiated demographic behavior, have caused a new order of the ethnic composition. The black population rose to 12.2% (30 million in 1990), up from 11.1% in 1970.
Internal geographic mobility has changed over the past twenty years. While the trend towards frequent change of location remains (18% of the residents change homes every year), the phenomenon has acquired new spatial characteristics: short-range transfer prevails, with a mere 3% of interstate transfers, and when the movement is long range travels mostly from north to south. The states with the highest positive migratory balance are California, as in past decades, but today also Florida, Texas and Arizona.