(NEXSTAR) — Last year, we reached a population we’ve never seen before in the U.S.: 333.3 million, according to the Census Bureau. That came after a historically low rate of change between 2020 and 2021.
As you can probably guess, our population is only expected to grow in the coming years, but the growth may not last long, new estimates from the Census show.
It’s part of the Census’s 2023 National Population Projections, released Thursday. The data accounts for the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our population, as well as the most recent census from 2020.
The newest projections stretch to 2100, the furthest into the future the Census has ventured since 2000. Back then, the Census estimated the U.S. would reach a population of anywhere from about 571 million to 1.2 billion by 2100.
We aren’t expected to reach either over the next seven and a half decades, the Census now projects. Instead, the U.S. could see its peak in 2080, reaching a population of roughly 370 million — 200 million less than the estimates from 2000. But what goes up must come down.
After hitting a peak in about 47 years, the Census projects our population will drop down to 366 million at the turn of the century, an overall 9.7% increase from 2022.
“The U.S. has experienced notable shifts in the components of population change over the last five years,” Sandra Johnson, a demographer at the Census Bureau, explained in a Thursday press release. “Some of these, like the increases in mortality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to be short-term while others, including the declines in fertility that have persisted for decades, are likely to continue into the future. Incorporating additional years of data on births, deaths and international migration into our projections process resulted in a slower pace of population growth through 2060 than was previously projected.”
There are, of course, different scenarios that could impact the growth of the nation’s population. The aforementioned projections are “considered the most likely outcome of four assumptions.” The Census also considered high, low, and zero immigration situations for the U.S.
In a high immigration estimate, the Census projections our population would hit 435 million by 2100. There’s no 2080 peak in that projection, just continuous annual growth.
With low immigration, the Census estimates the nation’s population would peak at 346 million in 2043, then drop to around 319 million by 2100. With no foreign immigration, our population would decline to 226 million, about 107 million less than where we are today.
Overall, the Census points to immigration as the likely largest driver of the nation’s growth over the coming decades. In all projections, fewer births and an aging population contributed to a “natural decrease” in our size.
In the coming decades, the Census projects we’ll be growing older, with the share of the population 65 years old and older comprising anywhere from about 27% to 35% by 2100. We’re also likely to get older as a whole: the current median age in the U.S. is about 39 (already the highest it’s ever been) but could shift to anywhere from 46 to 54 in the next 77 years.
The newest projections also show a current trend will likely continue. Earlier this year, the Census reported Generation Z will be the last generation with a white majority. Around 2045, non-Hispanic white people will fall below half as a share of the overall U.S. population. The Hispanic population is projected to reach roughly 27% by 2060, the Census now estimates.
It is worth noting these are only projections. They will likely change (remember when the Census estimated we’d reach a population of 571 million by 2100?) and will continue to be updated regularly by the Census Bureau as new data becomes available.
In case you’re wondering, in 2000, the Census projected we’d reach a population of 330 million in 2022, just 3 million shy of our current number.
Daniel de Visé contributed to this report.