Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness
and co-founder in 2013 of the California Policy Center.
United States currently has one of the highest proportions of
foreign-born residents in its history. At nearly 50 million,
over 15 percent of the people living in America were born somewhere
hotly debated pros and cons of mass immigration tend to center
on economic arguments (that immigrants either benefit or harm
America’s economy) or cultural ones (that immigrants either
enrich or undermine American culture).
is impossible to take a position in these debates without inciting
hostility from one side or the other. But no matter what position
one may take, it is useful to look at immigration in the context
of global population trends.
official United Nations estimate shows global population rising
from the current 7.8 billion to peak at 10.9 billion in 2100.
But this projection is disputed by demographers Darrell Bricker
and John Ibbitson in their 2020 book Empty Planet. Taking data
from numerous recent studies and official reports, nation by
nation, their estimate has global population peaking at 9.0
billion by 2050 and declining thereafter.
about this has profound implications. The authors cite urbanization
as a central variable affecting population growth, claiming
that “in rural settlements children provide farm labor,
whereas in cities a child is just another mouth to feed.”
More education, more access to healthcare, and a lower prevalence
of religious influence are other reasons the authors claim that
urbanization lowers birth rates.
factors are widely cited as the reasons urbanization is lowering
birth rates, and true or not, the correlation is undeniable.
In 1960, two-thirds of humanity lived in rural areas, and the
total fertility rate (average number of children per woman)
was 5.0. Today, nearly 60 percent of humanity lives in cities,
and the total fertility rate is 2.5 and dropping almost everywhere.
a 2019 interview to promote their upcoming book, authors Bricker
and Ibbitson tick through the demographic trends by country
and region. Some of the highlights are fascinating. China, where
there are 60 million more men than women, “is going to
get old before it gets rich enough to get old.” By the
end of the 21st century, China’s population, currently
1.4 billion, could decline to 600 million.
raises an interesting question. Which national demographic strategy
is more perilous? To allow your population to age, and to cope
with an inverted worker-to-retiree ratio? That is the strategy
of the developed Asian nations. Or to engage in mass immigration
to perpetually replace your younger generation, and to cope
with the challenge of integrating people from diverse cultures?
That is the strategy of the developed Western nations.
is no glib answer to this question, despite the certainty of
proponents on both sides. On the one hand, to welcome immigrants,
even if the challenge of cultural integration is met, only defers
the ultimate solution. As Bricker and Ibbitson point out, by
2050 there may not be any nations left on earth that do not
have below replacement birth rates.
only places left on Earth where birthrates are still very high
is Africa, where the population is forecast to almost double
to 2.5 billion people between now and 2050.
or later, every nation on earth will have to cope with the challenge
of an aging population. One may hope that the benefit of automation
will offset the shortage of workers, without that epochal shift
in the human experience leading to unmanageable economic and
solution, if there is one, would be to try to do the best of
both. Try to be the last nation to have to cope with an irretrievably
inverted population pyramid, while also managing to preserve
a national identity. For now, the first part of that is easy.
Continue a policy of robust, if not mass, immigration. The second
part is harder.
it’s necessary to maintain a healthy demographic balance
between old and young, at least until we sort out the challenges
of converting from a labor-intensive consumer society to a machine-intensive
retiree society. It’s fair to admit that barring extraordinary
cultural transformation, women in developed, urbanized societies
where individual rights are protected, are choosing and will
continue to choose to have children at below replacement rates.
But who then do we invite to live in our nation, and how do
we treat them? This is where the American people have been mistreated
by their leadership.
current immigration policies are flawed in at least two fundamental
ways. First, they aren’t committed to bringing in immigrants
who are highly educated and skilled, and come from cultures
that adapt well to life in a liberal democracy. Admitting unskilled
immigrants victimizes America’s lowest-income citizens,
making their own upward mobility much tougher. It drives down
wages and requires more government spending. This benefits corporations
and government bureaucrats, but damages the nation.
other fundamental flaw in America’s immigration policies
is how immigrants are treated. In past centuries, this ‘nation
of immigrants’ was not a welfare state. The people who
entered the nation, often Europeans who had to endure years
of indentured servitude, had to work, or rely on their family
members for support. To make things much worse, along with a
comprehensive welfare state, American culture now trains immigrants—virtually
all of whom are people of color—to believe they’re
living in a racist nation, populated either by white supremacists,
or at the least, whites who practice unconscious racism.
is a grotesque distortion of reality, if not just a dangerous,
opportunistic lie. Yet it is obsessively promulgated by America’s
establishment elites, and it filters down to everything from
public schools to corporate marketing campaigns. It trains anyone
who isn’t white to believe they are inherently disadvantaged,
and to believe that any failures or setbacks they may encounter
in life are likely to have been the result of systemic racism.
is a terrible way to integrate immigrants into America. This
nation used to proudly proclaim itself to be a melting pot,
where immigrant cultures dissolved into a unique American culture.
It absorbed the flavors that everyone brought, but assimilated
them into something originally defined by the founders—a
nation committed to equality and freedom.
people critical of mass immigration worry that it is changing
the racial composition of the country, perhaps they shouldn’t
be ridiculed. After all, there are few if any historical examples
where this has been easy. Nonetheless, if race is their primary
concern, they’re on thin ice.
when people critical of mass immigration argue that, with rare
and justifiable exceptions, immigration should be limited to
those with the ability and desire to assimilate into our culture
and contribute to our economy, they are standing on bedrock.
These are completely different reasons for concern, and must
be evaluated accordingly.
can do both; maintain a youthful population while preserving
its national culture and identity. But to do that will require
an immigration policy that serves the American people, instead
of corporations and government bureaucrats.