10 Years, 10 Key Findings About U.S. Population

PRB’s Population Bulletin, “U.S. Economic and Social Trends Since 2000,” analyzes the last 10 years of economic and social trends in the United States.  Here are 10 key findings about those last 10 years:


  1. The recession has had wide-ranging effects on the U.S. population and society.
  2. In some cases, these are long-term trends that preceded the recession, while other trends may be short-term adaptations to the economic crisis.
  3. Fertility rates have declined during past economic downturns, and the current recession is expected to have a similar impact on birth rates in 2008 and 2009.
  4. Education levels have continued to increase for most groups but have increased faster among women than men. And there are still persistent racial/ethnic gaps in educational attainment.
  5. The future economic success of the U.S. workforce depends in large part on the education, skills, and productivity of young people, who are increasingly racial and ethnic minorities. By 2030, 43 percent of all youth (ages 15 to 24) are projected to be black or Latino. If current gaps in school enrollment and completion rates among blacks and Hispanics persist, the United States may not have the workforce it needs to succeed in today’s global, knowledge-based economy.
  6. Job losses and housing market declines have disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos. Latinos have been especially vulnerable because of their concentrations in California, Florida, and several other states with steep declines in home values and high rates of foreclosure.
  7. There is a growing poverty gap between children and the elderly. Social Security benefits have kept most older Americans above the official poverty line, while families with children have not fared as well. However, the number of children without health insurance dropped sharply from 2007 to 2008, from 8.1 million to 7.3 million.
  8. More people are delaying marriage. However, it is hard to gauge whether the increase in the proportion of never-married men and women in 2008 was due to the recession or was just a continuation of ongoing trends.
  9. Fewer people are moving, but some parts of the country continue to experience high levels of out-migration. The population decline has been most pronounced in Michigan, where 60 of the state’s 83 counties lost population between 2007 and 2008.
  10. Many rural communities also struggle with high levels of out-migration. Of the 1,350 counties that shrank in population between 2000 and 2008, 85 percent are located outside metropolitan areas, and 59 percent rely heavily on farming, manufacturing, or mining. Just as the strong economy during the 1990s created new opportunities for people to live and work in rural areas, the weak economy since 2000 (and rising gas prices) may be pushing people back to cities to find jobs with decent wages that are closer to home.