The population of the United States is greatly affected by the lowering of both the mortality and fertility rates and by the current migration rates. There are four aspects that relate these three factors to the American population. Each factor has an impact on our society, has an impact on other key aspects of our society, interrelates with American values, and requires different techniques to deal best with them.
The first population aspect relating to migration is the impact it has on our society. Each day, immigrants have a larger impact on our society than emigrants do because every day 4,000 immigrants enter the United States while only 880 emigrants leave (Pieper). As of 1995, one of every twenty children could not speak adequate enough English to attend regular classes; this raises the cost of educating them 65% higher than the cost to educate an English speaking child (Brimelow). Besides the educational costs, immigrants also raise the costs of welfare and health care, even though the impact on these services diminishes as the educational level of the individual immigrant goes up (Pieper). Immigrants, on average, send four billion dollars back to their native county (Pieper) whereas they only generate one- to three-tenths of one percent of economic gain a year (Brimelow). As the diversity of a country increases, tension accumulates within the country until war breaks out. These ethnic wars cause an increase in the death rate and also social instability within the country. The third problem with immigrants is that the 1965 immigration law was reformed to remove the system of quotas. Prior to 1965, these laws held that only a certain number of people from certain countries could enter the United States. With the abolition of these laws, immigrants are no longer asked to assimilate (Brimelow). This is one of the main reasons why, in just a few generations, the Anglos will no longer be the majority in the United States, the Latinos will (Isbister).
The second population aspect relating to migration is the affect it has on the American way of life. Of the 4,000 immigrants who arrive each day 1,000 of them are arriving illegally (Pieper). Since these immigrants do not have the proper documents to seek employment, they are forced to find employment illegally. In 1995, the American prison population was comprised of one-fourth immigrant (Brimelow). Even though illegal immigrants are not U.S. citizens, the children born to them are. This fact interrelates with the first problem caused by immigration, higher costs of education, welfare, and health care. As the number of immigrants increase, so does the necessity to be bilingual. It has become such a problem that many of the Mexico bordering states have changed over to bilingual street and advertisement signs. Lastly, discrimination is becoming a problem. In 2002, 58% of the American people felt that immigration should be cut back (Pieper). After the 1965 reform of the immigration laws, the level of third-world immigrants has risen and so have the levels of bias and racism toward these people.
The third population aspect relating to migration is the values they bring with them into the United States. Prior to 1965, immigrants had a period of assimilation following a period of migration to allow them to assimilate. Modern day immigrants usually migrate to an area that is already populated by people of the same ethnicity (Pieper). Generally, immigrants are considered to be harder workers than are native born Americans. They have a tendency to start their own business and then employ other immigrants. Some cities have even been revitalized by the efforts of immigrant entrepreneurs (Pieper). A third value that tends to differ from that of native born Americans is their dedication to their families. Especially the Latino immigrants, there are multiple generations living within the same house or close by. Family ties are usually very strong and provide a good network of support.
The last population aspect relating to migration is how the United States can handle them. There are four ways in which the immigration levels could be lowered. First off, either the immigration law prior to the 1965 reform can be reinstated or reform the laws a second time to make them stricter. A second way to lower the number of immigrants in the United States would be to focus on attracting immigrants from other industrialized nations and restrict or stop the flow of immigrants from third-world countries. The third way would be to leave the immigration laws the way they are and then make the deportation laws stiffer and more strictly enforced. The last option would be for the native born Americans to become more understanding toward the immigrants already in the United States and those who will come over in the future.
Migration is not the only factor in the United States that affects the population, mortality and fertility rates also play a large role. As with the migration rates, mortality and fertility rates have four distinct aspects relating them to the population. The first population aspect relating to mortality and fertility rates is the impact they have on our society. Both the mortality and fertility rates are dropping. Even though the fecundity level is 14 to 15 children the average American woman has under 2.1 children. Since 2.1 is the minimum number of children each woman in the United States must have to replace the number of people who die, the population of the United States is starting to fall (Pieper). However, the mortality rates are also dropping; this is due in large part to the advances made in the medical system. As the United States has progressed into the twenty-first century, the average size of the family has shrunk. With the increased superiority of the health care system, the infant mortality rates have dropped allowing families to have fewer children. Also because of the increased health care, the lifespan has increased along with the resources available to the elderly to maintain a standard of living after retirement. This has helped the average family size to drop since children no longer have the sole responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. The advances in health care have also caused the population to get increasingly older. This increasingly large number of elderly people is due, in part, to the aging of the Baby Boomers (Pieper). This swell in the number of elderly, especially the 85 and over category, is having an adverse affect on the health and social services sector of our society. This is due to the fact that mental and physical ailments are two to three times more common in the “old old” than in the “young old” (Peterson). This also shows that the cost of health care rises with age (Pieper).
The second population aspect relating to mortality and fertility rates would be the changes that occur in the American way of life. Even though the American family is shrinking, their children are receiving a better education. This increased demand for higher education coupled with the smaller number of people being born has produced a shrinking workforce (Peterson). As the Baby Boomers hit retirement, or opt for early retirement, the number of new workers entering the work force is too small to fill the employment gaps (Pieper). This makes the United States seem like the perfect place for immigrants to settle down in. Even with the increase in demand it is still hard for the elderly to find a job after retirement.
This is due to the third population aspect relating to mortality and fertility rates, the new values that our society have come to hold about the old. The first value is that of ageism. This value is categorized by the views that the old are a burden, the age of a person, instead of their capability, determines what people expect from them and that a youthful appearance is a major factor in how people treat others (Pieper). With the value of ageism comes the possibility that people will discriminate against the elderly solely because they are elderly. The elderly also have to deal with the fact that our society has not properly prepared for their drastic increase (Pieper). However, businesses that cater to the elderly are starting to emerge and the government is now looking into ways to better handle social security and Medicare.
The last population aspect relating to mortality and fertility rates is that of how to deal with the drop in these rates. To increase the fertility rates, the government could offer incentives to have more children, with a program similar to China’s. To help ease the impact that the Baby Boomers will and are having on the work force, the age of retirement could be raised or the social security benefits could be raised in proportion with the number of years worked after normal retirement age. Even a combination of the two could be helpful. Lastly, the current immigration levels could be allowed to remain where they now are with little restriction. This last option would increase the size of the work force, but would also cause many of the problems stated earlier.
Migration and the mortality and fertility rates are just a few of the factors that affect the population of the United States. These plus others affect our society as a whole, other key aspects of our society, the values we currently hold as Americans, and even how we cope with population problems when they arise.
Brimelow, Peter. Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster (Random House, 1995).
Isbister, John. The Immigration Debate: Remaking America (Kumarian Press, 1996).
Peterson, Peter G. “Gray Dawn: The Global Aging Crisis” Foreign Affairs 78 (1999).
Pieper, Hanns. Class lecture. Sociology 230. Wallace B. Graves Hall, Evansville. 2006.