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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske April 18, 2016

Don Beyer wrongly says U.S. population would be shrinking without immigrants

In the immigration debate, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, says he’s "just amazed" that Republican don't think of the country's employment needs.

"But for immigration, we would have a contracting population, and a contracting population means a contracting economy," he said during an April 12 radio interview with Bill Press, a liberal talk show host who broadcasts from Washington.

"So where are the workers going to come from 10 years from now, 15 years from now, but for healthy immigration policies?" Beyer asked. He said immigration critics "don’t think - not even just long-term, but short-term - about the employee needs this country has."

What caught our attention is the congressman’s claim that the U.S. population would be falling without immigration. We wondered if he’s right.

Thomas Scanlon, Beyer’s director of communications, pointed us to a study released by the Pew Research Center in September. It examined U.S. immigration trends since 1965 and offered projections through 2065.

But the Pew study - citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau - undercuts much of Beyer’s claim. It says, "If no immigrants had entered the country after 1965, when the U.S. population numbered 193 million, the nation’s population still would have grown - to 252 million people by 2015, rather than 324 million."

In other words, the U.S. population grew by 131 million -- or 68 percent -- during the past 50 years. Without documented and undocumented immigrants and their descendants, Pew says the population would have increased 59 million - or 31 percent.

Moving forward, Pew projects the U.S. population to expand from 324 million last year to 441 million in 2065 - a 36 percent increase. With no immigration after 2015, Pew says the population still would grow but only to 338 million in 2065. That would be a 4 percent increase over 50 years.

Here’s another way to look at it: Pew predicts that 88 percent of the nation’s population growth during the next 50 years will be linked "to future immigrants and their descendants."

That’s a big surge from the past 50 years, when "the arrival of new immigrants and the births of their children and grandchildren account for 55 percent of the population increase," according to Pew.

There’s one more finding in Pew’s projections that should be considered. Let’s go back to Pew’s projection that if immigration ended in 2015, the U.S. population would expand from last year’s 324 million million to 338 million in 2065.

All of that growth and more would occur by 2045, according to Pew, when the population would peak at 343 million. During the next 20 years, the population would decrease by 5 million.

In other words, Pew projects that after 2045 all of the U.S. population growth - which factors births, deaths and migration in and out of the country - will be attributable to the latest two generations of immigrants and their children. .

Our ruling

Beyer said, "But for immigrants, we would have a contracting population."

A Pew study cited by Beyer’s office doesn’t support the congressman’s claim. It shows that the U.S. population would have expanded by about half of its 68 percent growth during the past 50 years if no immigration had taken place.

Looking ahead, Pew projects that 88 percent of the nation’s growth during the next 50 years will come from new immigrants, their children and grandchildren. But starting in 2045, the report says, all of the net growth will come from immigrants.

Beyer’s statement, in the present tense, wrongly suggests that without immigrants the U.S. population now would be in decline. But some context needs to be added. His statement came while he was talking about the need for immigrants to fill U.S. jobs "10 years from now, 15 years from now."

In the future - say, 30 years from now - the Pew projections point to Beyer being right. But not now, or in 10 or 15 years. So we rate his statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, Radio interview on the "The Bill Press Show," April 12, 2016 (immigration comment at 1 hour, 46 minute mark).

Email from Thomas Scanlon, Communications director for Beyer, April 13, 2016.

Migration Policy Institute, Legal Immigration to the United States, 1820-Present, assessed April 12, 2016.

Pew Research Center, Immigration Report, Sept. 28, 2015.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics," published August 2014.

U.S. Census Bureau, "2014 National Population Projections,: Summary Tables," Tables 1, 4 and 5, accessed April 14, 2016.

National Bureau of Economic Research, "The Effect of Immigration on Productivity: Evidence from the U.S. States," November 2009.

Pew Charitable Trusts, "Changing Patterns in U.S. Population and Population: Immigrants Slow Population Decline in Many Counties," December 2014.

Email from Molly Rohal, communications manager for the Pew Research Center, Aug. 14, 2016.

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Don Beyer wrongly says U.S. population would be shrinking without immigrants

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