Each year, the United States Census Bureau releases an estimate of the total population for the United States. This year’s population estimate was released on December 30, 2013. It includes the Census Bureau’s estimation of US population on July 1, 2013. The US population, apparently, is shrinking. Today’s population is growing at a slower rate than it has since 1937 and economics seem to be the driving force behind the slow rate of growth for both those years.

In 1937, the US had already weathered through eight years of the Great Depression, begun in 1929. There were no jobs so there was no money. With no money, there was no food. No food meant no way to feed a growing family so families simply quit growing. There was no stability in housing options, either, so each year of the continuing national economic depression made it increasingly difficult for US citizens to house their families. The smaller the family, the easier it was to keep it together with a roof over its head.

The D-word (Depression) has rarely been used to describe today’s economic climate but there are startling similarities with that of 1937. The latest Census Bureau report indicates a population growth of just 0.72 percent from the previous year and that trend is described as “troubling” by William Frey. Frey is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research think tank, and he says the current weak economy is largely to blame for the slow growth rate.

According to Frey, people go where jobs are and the prolonged economic distress facing the American population is enticing fewer immigrants to enter the country. There are simply no jobs here for them.

Also a factor is the many US citizens focusing on jobs and financial security rather than starting a family. As with immigrants, the American population usually shifts from state to state as people follow the jobs but there is very little interstate shift in recent years as there are very few regions of the country experiencing job growth.

Last year’s biggest influx of workers occurred in North Dakota, where people flocked to take advantage of a recent oil boom. Jobs in North Dakota are in such high demand at the moment that even McDonald’s is offering a $300 signing bonus to new hires.

Fewer marriages and low birth rates also contribute to the slow growth rate of recent years. Limited mobility - the ability for people to move up the corporate ladder, move to areas of promising career potential, or to move out of their parents’ homes - is another factor contributing to fewer births in the US. Limited mobility is hitting the younger generation of Americans, who usually have the most babies, especially hard.

The slow population growth trend is expected to continue for the next few decades, as far as 2050, even though the economy is expected to strengthen. The Baby Boom generation is past its childbearing years and facing old age so can no longer contribute to the rate of growth caused by new babies being born.

Source: “Population and Housing Unit Estimates.” Population Estimates / United States Census Bureau. US Department of Commerce. Dec. 31, 2013. Web. Jan 7, 2014.

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