Covid-19, decreased international immigration and lower fertility rates, including among Latinas, helped drive what the Census Bureau said is a history-making slowdown in the national population growth.
The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the nation added just 392,665 people, a 0.1 percent growth rate, in the year from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.
That is the lowest rate since the nation’s founding, the bureau said.
More than 810,000 people in the U.S. have died since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, according to an NBC News data analysis.
“Now, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth,” Kristie Wilder, a Census Bureau demographer, said in a statement.
Since April 1, 2020, which was census day, the nation’s population has increased from 331,449,281 to 331, 893,745 — a gain of 444,464, or 0.13 percent.
Declining population can have economic impacts by reducing the number of available workers and affecting national production.
Latinos have been key to keeping the nation’s population growing, as the whiter baby-boom generation has been aging.
Latinos accounted for more than half of the country’s growth in the last decade, reaching 62.1 million by April 2020 and increasing to 18.7 percent of the U.S. population.
In the past two decades, growth in the Latino population has come from births more than migration. The reverse was the case in the 1980s and 1990s, according to Pew Research Center.
Fewer births, more deaths
For years, Latinas have had more children per woman than women of all other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
However, as with women of other racial and ethnic groups, that number has been dropping, said Rogelio Saenz, a professor of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Hispanic women also have seen some of the largest declines in fertility rates.
In 2019, Latinas’ fertility rate was 1.93 children per woman, and for 2020, it was just under 1.87. That’s a significant drop from the 2.1 fertility rate for Latinas about five years ago, Saenz said.
The slowdown of migration from Mexico has been a large reason for the declines. Higher education levels, postponing of marriage and, now, the pandemic are also factors, Saenz said.
Hispanics account for about 17.2 percent of Covid-19 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But CDC data also showed that in every age bracket, Hispanics have seen more deaths than their share of the U.S. population in the same age group.
That’s particularly true in the 35- to 44-year-old age group. In that bracket, Hispanics are 20 percent of the population but 35 percent of Covid-19 deaths.
The numbers are similar in the next-youngest age bracket, 25 to 34 years old.
Saenz noted that the numbers of foreign-born Latinas in the U.S. and Latinas in childbearing years, 15 to 44 years old, have fallen as Mexican migration has slowed.
But more Hispanic women — 61 percent — are in that childbearing age group, Saenz said, compared to 41 percent among non-Hispanic white women.
“So even if you see a drop in fertility among Latinas, the fact that there is a large number of them of childbearing ages, that population will continue increasing at a noticeable rate because of its youthfulness,” Saenz said.
The Census Bureau also noted that Puerto Rico’s population fell by 17,954 people, or minus 0.5 percent, from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.
The drop was mostly a result of natural decrease — more deaths than births — and because fewer people migrated to Puerto Rico than left.
The bureau said that in the year between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, net international migration — the difference in the number of people moving into the country and those leaving — exceeded natural increase, which is the number of excess births over deaths.
A total of 244,622 people were added to the U.S. population through net migration in that period, while 148,043 were added through natural increase, the bureau said.