Are 300 Million Americans Too Many?


The U.S. Census bureau projects that U.S. population should surpass 300 million in the next week or so. Is that cause for alarm, celebration, or a good snooze? UCLA demographer Dowell Myers tells the Washington Post, "[A}t 300 million, we are beginning to be crushed under the weight of our own quality-of-life degradation."

What degradation? When I was born U.S. population was 160 million and the GDP was just over $2 trillion in constant dollars. I must say that over that time, things have gotten a lot better. At 300 million, U.S. GDP tops $11 trillion. In the meantime, U.S. air is cleaner, forest area has been stable for 100 years and houses are bigger and more comfortable. By almost every measure life is better– restaurants, television, computers, the internet, air travel, life expectancy and the list is nearly endless. Of course, we all can point to aspects of living in these here United States that could be improved, but the term "degradation" seems inapt to me.

What about the future? According to projections made by the Employment Policy Foundation, as U.S. population reaches 480 million around 2077, GDP should rise 12-fold to $128 trillion in real dollars. If that happens, average per capita incomes would be over $150,000. That will buy a lot of quality of life and environmental improvement. On the other hand, the U.S. could join Europe over the next few decades and eventually begin to see a population decline.