U.S. Population Throughout History

Fertility Rate, Aging Population, and Immigration

Crowd at the Palio horse race in Siena.
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The first decennial census in the United States in 1790 showed a population of just under four million people. In 2019, the U.S. population is at more than 330 million.

Even though in 2008, there was an almost one percent increase in the birth rate compared to the years before it, it was seen as a post-recession baby boom. In 2019, the United States had only a 0.6 percent increase in population.

According to the Census, "The combination of births, deaths, and net international migration increases the U.S. population by one person every 18 seconds." While that figure may sound high, the U.S. population is actually growing at a slower rate than many other nations.

U.S. Fertility Rate

The United States runs below replacement level (2.1 births per woman) in fertility rate, with an estimated 1.85 as of 2019. Some of the drop in fertility rate was due to a decrease in teen births between 2010 and 2019 and a drop in unintended pregnancies. 

The lower birthrate actually signifies that, in the United States, women have increasingly more and more opportunities, unlike in countries with a high fertility rate. Women who put off motherhood have fewer children but, generally, have them on better economic footing. 

A low birthrate is also a sign of an established economy. The U.S. rate is actually high among the richest nations in the world, which are all instead grappling with an overall aging population.

Aging Population

A lower birthrate and an increasing life expectancy contribute to the fact that the overall U.S. population is aging. One problem associated with an increasingly aging population includes fewer people in the workforce.

Countries that have an older population and are not having a net immigration will see population declines. This has the potential to put a strain on social services and health care, as there are fewer people to pay taxes to support government programs for the elderly. There are also fewer caregivers for them.

Immigration = Population Rise

Fortunately, the United States attracts a large number of immigrants who come here to work. Also, people who come here searching for a better life do so at an age when they typically have young children, thus keeping the country's population growing. Immigrants fill in the gaps in the workforce created by the aging population and the drop in fertility rate.

But it's not a new trend. Since 1965 the population increase of the United States has been due to immigrants and their descendants, with that trend expected to continue for the next 50 years, Pew Research reported. Immigrants accounted for about 14 percent of the total U.S. population in 2015.  

U.S. Census Figures

Here you will find a list of the U.S. population every 10 years from the first official census in 1790 to the most recent in 2010, including a recent population estimate. The population is expected to hit 355 million by 2030, 373 million by 2040, and 388 million by 2050.  

The numbers from before 1790 are only estimates and come from "Colonial and Pre-Federal Statistics." This document makes a point of counting the white and Black populations both separately and jointly. Also, up until 1860, census numbers did not include Native Americans.

1610: 350
1620: 2,302
1630: 4,646
1640: 26,634
1650: 50,368
1660: 75,058
1670: 111,935
1680: 151,507
1690: 210,372
1700: 250,888
1710: 331,711
1720: 466,185
1730: 629,445
1740: 905,563
1750: 1,170,760
1760: 1,593,625
1770: 2,148,076
1780: 2,780, 369
1790: 3,929,214
1800: 5,308,483
1810: 7,239,881
1820: 9,638,453
1830: 12,866,020
1840: 17,069,453
1850: 23,191,876
1860: 31,443,321
1870: 38,558,371
1880: 50,189,209
1890: 62,979,766
1900: 76,212,168
1910: 92,228,496
1920: 106,021,537
1930: 123,202,624
1940: 132,164,569
1950: 151,325,798
1960: 179,323,175
1970: 203,302,031
1980: 226,542,199
1990: 248,709,873
2000: 281,421,906
2010: 307,745,538
2017: 323,148,586


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Rosenberg, Matt. "U.S. Population Throughout History." ThoughtCo, Dec. 19, 2020, thoughtco.com/us-population-through-history-1435268. Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, December 19). U.S. Population Throughout History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-population-through-history-1435268 Rosenberg, Matt. "U.S. Population Throughout History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-population-through-history-1435268 (accessed June 5, 2023).