Figure 1 depicts annual U.S. population growth rates from 1900-01 to 2019-20. The most recent growth rate of 0.35% is the lowest of any single year since the beginning of the twentieth century, and likely for most of the nation’s history.
Over this period, the nation’s growth experienced ups and downs during wars, economic upheavals, and immigration waves. This includes a dip to below 0.5% during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and rises to almost 2% during the post-World War II “baby boom.” After sagging to annual levels closer to 1% during the 1970s and 1980s, there was uptick in the 1990s as a consequence of higher immigration.
Since 2000, national population growth started to dip again, especially after the Great Recession, and in recent years due to new immigration restrictions. Yet the 2019-to-2020 rate is well below most growth rates over the past 102 years, and less than half the level observed as recently as 2000 (see downloadable Table A).
Part of last year’s sharp decline can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought with it more deaths and further restrictions in immigration. Among states, 16 lost population in 2019-20 including California for the first time, and 34 showed lower growth or greater declines than in the previous year (downloadable Table B).