America at 300 Million

Thursday, October 19, 2006

GARRICK UTLEY: So the door closes, the clock says 6:00 p.m. Richard Haass is standing there, and as our in-house security person, thank you for making your humble home our—available for this.

I’m Garrick Utley, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Council, to this session. The usual—a couple usual announcements: A, this is on the record. I guess this means that that America’s now at 300 million is not a state secret, so we can talk about this. (Laughter.)

Secondly, of course, please turn off all means of interruption—cell phones, pagers, et cetera—so trains of thought are not going to be interrupted.

As usual, for those of you who know the experience here, we’ll hear from our panel some opening statements and conversation amongst us for the first 25, 30 minutes, and then it’s open to a conversation. And I guess we’re an intimate group today. With a big subject, I think that can be very fruitful.

I would only make one or two observations. You know, we talk these days, because of North Korea, about nuclear proliferation—their nuclear tests, the seismic shocks. But we’re talking about another kind of population—or proliferation—population proliferation. And it has its own seismic shocks and aftershocks, which seem to go on forever, and do go on forever. That’s what we’re really addressing, the big issues here—not just the sheer size and what those big numbers mean—what it means for the United States and the world; what it means for ethnic mix; what it means for integration, integrating and assimilating a changing population; what it means for the economy; what it means for our lives.

Joseph Chamie is to my immediate left. Many of you know him, certainly, by reputation. Joe is one of the leading figures—as are all our members of the today—in the field of demography. He was for a long time the director of the U.N. Population Center—was it? Division—Population Division—the leading center of population data and projections. And I recall a few years ago that Joe and his office set the date when the world had its 6 billionth person. And I’m not going to ask you how you knew. (Laughter.) Did you know?

JOSEPH CHAMIE: Oh, yes. Absolutely. (Laughter.)

UTLEY: Okay.

Roberto Suro is a former journalist, as was I—or am I. He is currently the director of the Pew Charitable Trust’s Hispanic Center. The Pew people set this up a number of years ago thinking that the growth of the Hispanic population in America was of such importance that it had to be surveyed, kept track of, study the demographic’s impact on society, again on the changing population in the United States. We’re glad to have your perspective here.

And Michael Teitelbaum—also familiar here. What can I say about Michael? Michael is with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He’s vice president there. He is one of the—is a Rhodes Scholar; taught at Oxford; taught at Princeton; written more books than I’ll even attempt to mention right here. But basically he is an expert not only on demography, on work forces, talent in the world, but fertility rates and all aspects of this. So Michael, welcome, too.

Let’s start with this title: America at 300 Million. It was the mid-1960s when we reached 200 million. Were there any projections at that time when we would hit 300 (million)? Is this a—should this be a surprise as you put it in historical context?

CHAMIE: Sure. I’d be happy to do so.

I should tell you, though, that I have a handicap—all of us do here, because we’re not using any slides. Presenting demographics without slides is very difficult—(inaudible).

Anyway, historically, this country has been involved in population growth from its inception—1776, the Declaration of Independence. You all probably can recite the first two paragraphs, but there’s paragraph nine, which I can quote to you, that talks about “he”—the king—“has endeavored to prevent the population of these states for that purpose of obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of land.” That was in the Declaration of Independence when the country was only about 2.5 million.

We didn’t reach 50 million until 1880, and Rutherford Hayes, when he addressed the U.S. Congress, noted how dynamic the country was. He mentioned new enterprises, and noted that the debt was very low—something different from today. (Laughter.)

By 1915—President Wilson did not deliver a statement to Congress, but he addressed a group of naturalized citizens at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, May 10, 1915. And he said, among other things, “This is the only country in the world which experiences this constant and repeated rebirth.”

In 1967 Lyndon Johnson, the president at that time, also made a statement—and they had a ceremony at the Census Bureau—and he asked the question: “Shall this country be a great nation? That’s a question for the third hundred million.”

And recently, a few days ago, in a written statement, President George Bush announced the 300 million, saying: “We are celebrating a significant milestone. Our continued growth is a testament to the country’s dynamism, and a reminder of the—America’s greatest asset is its people.”

Well, that’s what’s happened over the last several hundred years. But there’s an interesting question: What if there was no migration? You know, when Jefferson and Franklin and Hancock were signing the Declaration of Independence, what would happen if there were no migrants after July 4, 1776?

Now I did that exercise, and I can tell you, the number would be much smaller. My calculations indicate it would be about 124 million people in America—about 40 percent of its current size.

Also, I did some calculations—how may Americans have ever lived, and how many were immigrants? How many were citizens at birth? According to my calculations, the number of Americans who ever lived was 558 million, of which today there are 300 million, so the majority are alive today. But of that 558 million, there were only 72 million, roughly, immigrants. The rest were births.

So we talk about America being a country of immigrants, but really the offspring of the immigrants is more accurate. About 87 percent of the Americans who ever lived were a result of births. And it’s rather ironic that that’s about the same number of foreigners we have in this country right now—there’s about 13 percent of the population who’s foreign.

Currently we’re 300 million, and we’re growing at about 1 percent. Briefly, we’re going to continue growing. The Census Bureau says that we’ll be—around 2043 we’ll be hitting the 400 million mark. My guess is it will be much earlier than 2043—probably 2040, 2038—because I think they’re underestimating the numbers of immigrants coming in.

So what’s the likely number by mid-century? The Census Bureau puts it at 420 million. My guess is it’s likely to be closer to 450 million, and it’s even possible to be 500 million by mid-century, if fertility goes up just a little bit—the women decide to have maybe a quarter-child more. (Laughter.) Quarter-child more, that’s all you have to do. (Laughter.) It’s a lot—a quarter-child more. Instead of 2.1, maybe up to 2.25, 2.3—and if immigrants continue increasing as they have been, we could be a that. And by the end of the century, we could be approaching double the number we have right now: 600 million.

UTLEY: So I wouldn’t dare say, but someone might say, “Watch out India and China; here we come.” (Laughter.)

Roberto, just looking at today, though, and where we may be in the next few decades—you’re focusing on immigration, obviously, fertility—from your perspective, studying the Hispanic community particularly, what do you see changing, and how do you see that impacting American life?

ROBERTO A. SURO: Well, you know, much of the interest in this number, this sort of historical marker, 300 million, is not so much the size but the change in the composition of the country. And it’s been taken as a measure of how—not just the size of the population, but its makeup is changing.

And it is quite a stark change. If you look back to the last 100 million added to the population—when the 200 millionth person was recorded in the mid-1960s, the population was 84 percent white. It’s now a little more than 67 percent white, and much of that change is due to immigration and its offspring—and the offspring of immigrants. And this is a change that has a good deal of momentum behind it, and it’s likely to continue in the future.

When you look back at that last 100 million and this period of 40 years, it coincides interestingly with some—two really fundamental changes in American society. One was changes in immigration law and a series of other factors—changes in the U.S. economy, changes in the population of Mexico, a number of political events—that spurred an immigrant influx that gained a lot of momentum in the ‘70s and accelerated through the ‘80s and has reached very high peaks since the 1990s.

The other coincidental factor, among others, was that it was just at the time at the end of the baby boom when fertility started declining in the native population—in the mid-1960s. And they declined now to a point where fertility now among native-born whites, for example, is higher that it is in other industrialized countries, but it’s much lower than it was in the 1960s and much lower than it is among immigrants.

It’s—the change of this 100 million is the net effect of both of those things, and the momentum is the net effect of both of those things.

Of the last 100 million, 35 million were immigrants. Another 20 million were the offspring of immigrants. So immigration since the mid-1960s accounts for about 55 percent of that last 100 million. And it’s got this future momentum to it, because when you look at the very young population in the United States—the population that’s under 5 years old, for example—it’s only 55 percent non-Hispanic white now. Those are people who are already here, most—almost entirely native-born. And that’s where the future is taking us, to a country that—it’s very different, 55 percent, than a country that was 84 percent white 40 years ago.

And the mix in the population in terms of age structure is very different. The immigrant population is much younger. The Hispanic population is much younger. So while Hispanics are about 14 percent of the population, they account for 22 percent of births, but only 4 percent of deaths. Non-Hispanic whites, meanwhile, account for 56 percent of births, but 81 percent of deaths. It is a population that is older and aging, and that will continue.

So as the country grows beyond 300 million, the composition is likely to continue to change in the way we’ve seen in the last 40 years.

UTLEY: Well, Roberto, we’ll send those comments to the Membership Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and see what it—(laughs, laughter)—

Michael, you’re sitting there with a half a smile on your face. Should we be excited about America at 300 million? Is this a big thing?

MICHAEL S. TEITELBAUM: No. I don’t think it’s a big thing. It’s a milestone, an arbitrary milestone. It happens to have two zeros at the end of it, and that makes it attract attention simply because of the arbitrary number. It attracts press coverage for that reason, and there’s been a lot of press coverage, as you may have noticed, about 300 million Americans.

There’s almost no press coverage in between, apparently. SO you only get press coverage when some milestone is reached, and yet if you looked at the numbers, you would see—and listened to what my colleagues have said, you would see that the population grows by a very substantial number of thousands, like 7(,000) or 8,000, every day. But that’s not news in the conventional sense. You have to get something like 300 million, and then you get presidential statements and editorials in major newspapers and CNN covering it.

It’s not a good thing; it’s not a bad thing. Population growth at the levels we’re talking about in the U.S., which is 1 percent or less—not a good thing, not a bad thing, in my view. It’s not essential for prosperity. It’s not—as some people claim, by the way—it’s not unsustainable environmentally, as some people claim.

It’s really a choice—a value choice. Do you—does the society and the individuals and the couples in the society put higher value on children and child-bearing than it does on other uses of time and resources? Does the society collectively welcome substantial numbers of immigrants or turn a blind eye to immigrants who are not welcomed but are entering nonetheless? Those are value choices that are made, and there’s no way to really come up with an objective judgment about whether it’s good or bad.

It is a topic that is prone to excess claims and to loose rhetoric. You may remember around 1967, that key year that was just mentioned, there was a best-selling book called “The Population Bomb”—a very rhetorical, very excessive book. And then you will find other books written more recently—their talk about birth dearths and shortages of population growth.

It is a—to some degree a conversation of the deaf, in which these two extreme points of view are lobbing mortar shells over the transom at each other, and nobody’s in the middle discussing the realities of the situation.

So a few facts—and you’ve heard—I agree with all the facts that have been presented by my colleagues, so I’m not going to repeat them. But the U.S. does have the highest fertility rates currently of any developed country—any industrialized country. It’s way higher than some. The U.S. fertility rate is about 2.0, and if you look at Italy, it’s about 1.2. So in percentage terms, it’s a very big difference.

It also has the largest flow of immigrants to any country in the world, but not as a percentage of the population, so you have to look at this in both ways. Canada has a higher inflow of immigrants relative to its 31 or 32 million base population than the U.S. does. And immigration has a high potential because of inequities in the world, and it’s rising. And numbers—all governments regulate immigration. The notion that immigration is not regulated effectively is an argument of editorial boards, some of them located in New York. But it’s basically—it’s true that all governments attempt to regulate immigration.

But the U.S. policy is unusual because its immigration is a consequence of inaction. It may have laws on the books, but it does not enforce the laws on the books. And the policy debate on immigration, as you may have noticed—it’s hard to miss it, of course, currently—is a relatively incoherent debate, and it’s dominated by the extreme arguments on one side or the other, which are being put forward by people or interest groups that have a strong interest in things coming out one way or the other.

Meanwhile, if you look at the public, you’ll see they’re very centrist on these issues. They’re not against immigration. They’re not in favor of raising immigration. They’re actually opposed to raising immigration, but they like immigration. They’re positive about immigrants. And they’re very skeptical of these extreme claims that are being lobbed over the transom.

And so what you find—and I’ll close here—a huge gap in public opinion, or a huge gap in opinion between the public and the elite or the leadership of the country. And you can see this in some wonderful surveys that have been done by the other Council on Foreign Relations—the one in Chicago, which has now changed its name, I gather, just to keep from being confusing about it. They’ve done some wonderful surveys in which they ask the same questions of a public opinion sample and of a leadership sample, and on this subject you find the biggest gaps of almost any of the subjects that they deal with.

UTLEY: Well, thank you. An idea popped in my mind, while we’re talking about the future and looking at the future, what you gentlemen do in demography is one of the few areas, maybe the only area, that you really have something approaching hard facts that can project or predict the future—not what the future’s going to be—we don’t know what economic growth is going to be; we don’t know where there’s going to be war and peace, but we know pretty well how many people there are going to be in any given society and how that impacts on that society.

Let’s take a couple minutes and just maybe address some questions I’m sure that’s on everyone’s mind here, and some maybe we can deal with quickly.

Space and food in America—can we handle 400, 500 million people?



SURO: Yes.

UTLEY: Yes. The answer is, there’s always Montana and North Dakota for space—(laughter)—and there’s Nebraska and Kansas and Ohio and Iowa for food. So that’s not a concern.

Environmental impact—we’re not environmentalists, but obviously this has to move up the agenda. Any particular thoughts from the demographers on this?

TEITELBAUM: Demographers are not very good about looking at environmental impacts. Those who do say there are some substantial issues raised of an environmental sort by substantial population growth. But there’s a lot between the number of people and the amount of effluent they produce. So those kinds of things can be dealt with to some degree—not at the limit, but to some degree by technological and regulatory—

UTLEY: Winners and losers, states, regions—we know the migration patterns in the U.S. for the last several decades. Does this just continue in greater numbers, Joe?

CHAMIE: Absolutely. Everyone knows people moving to the South or the West. One, weather. It has to do a lot with the aging of the population as well. The U.S. population is getting older. It’s a good thing. Everybody should appreciate aging. I’m all in favor of people aging. (Laughter.)

And we also have states that are losing, and without immigration they would be really declining. One is New York; Pennsylvania, Ohio. The ones that are gaining: Nevada, Arizona and Texas, Florida and so on. And this of course, has political and financial implications. And I think that’s one of the reasons why you see a lot of the cities and states fighting with the Census Bureau about how many there are. New York City for the third time contested the U.S. Bureau of the Census’s figures for New York City, and they won again, and they got $23 million extra that they didn’t expect. It’s relatively small, but then, sure, Mayor Bloomberg’s happy to get the 23 million (dollars).

The important thing I want to make a point that was said earlier on the categories of the people—the issue of grouping people is very, very critical. If you’re having people classified as white, black, Hispanic, those things could change. For example, the Hispanic category, to me—I’m finding it problematic because I don’t know what it means, really.

It’s a grouping of people from different countries— Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, and so on—and those groupings are artificial. So in the coming years—whereas we have white, black Hispanic and different groups, in the coming years they’re going to look more and more similar, and we may have to come up with other groupings.

UTLEY: Well, Roberto, let’s pass this very point on to you, about categorization. On the one hand, we’ve had it for—everybody mentally, quite aside from the Census Bureau, categorizes things and people. You’re there at Pew running the Hispanic Center, which is a category within Pew. How do you view categorizing? I’m not talking even from a personal sensibility, but just in terms of demography, society, and what you see happening.

SURO: Well, the notion that there is a group of people that you can call Hispanic is somewhat fragile. It’s purely self-identification. I mean, you are one if you say you are. And there’s not much more than that that you can say. It’s some link of ancestry to someplace where your forefathers at some level spoke Spanish, and that’s about it.

Yet, you know, there are—when asked, there are 44 or 45 million people who will check the box, and you can ask this a lot of different ways in surveys, and it’s a fairly cohesive group. It’s basically the same people. That definition is now, I believe, evolving very quickly, and it’s becoming more fragile, because the population is becoming more diverse—more diverse because there are different sources of immigration, and because the fastest growing group, and soon to be the largest, are the children of all those immigrants who came in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They’re in a process of assimilation and of inventing themselves.

UTLEY: (Inaudible)—follow up and make a point? Let’s take Spanish-speaking Hispanics in this country, because language has been identified as one way of categorizing people. What is happening for those who come from Spanish-speaking countries—mainly Mexico, Latin America—in terms of language ability, and to their children? In other words, how quick does linguistic assimilation occur?

SURO: Within the immigrant generation, it’s slow, but there is progress. You see people who’ve been here longer tend to speak more English, and they acquire English. They’re bilingual, and they retain Spanish certainly.

The movement from Spanish to English is virtually complete over the course of one generation. Looking at the children of immigrants, it’s very difficult to find somebody who reaches adulthood without speaking English. They often retain Spanish and are bilingual, but they’re fully functional in English. They’re the products of U.S. schools. I would think if anything, the acquisition of English is faster now than it was during previous periods of immigration. And anybody who fears for the English language really is not looking at the world very well. I mean, it’s the dominant language of the species.

CHAMIE: If I could add a footnote, with regards to the fertility of the Hispanics, simply grouping them together really masks a great difference. The lowest fertility is among Cuban-Americans. It’s lower than the whites. The Puerto Rican-Americans are right next to the whites. So that grouping, in my view, is problematic because it fudges a lot of the demographic analysis.

Now when you establish a grouping like that, then there become political and economic forces that keep it in place for allocations of resources, for political powers, for congressional seats. We don’t have religion as a grouping. You know, we don’t have a grouping for Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and so on.

UTLEY: The Census Bureau doesn’t.

CHAMIE: The Census Bureau has never collected it. Canadians do. I think it’s beneficial not to have those groupings. I think it’s better if you say, you know, “Where’s your origin?” And someone says, “I don’t remember.” (Laughter.) Or I’m from—

SURO: But people do remember. It’s an intrinsic part of who people tend to be, is where—what their national origins are.

UTLEY: One little anecdote that tells about the force of the marketplace on assimilation: We know there’s a large Hispanic television media market in this country, which is growing with Telemundo and Univision here in the United States. And I was talking with a young Mexican who has set up an advertising agency—Hispanic—in New York City and in Mexico, for the American Hispanic market. And I mentioned to him that there is now a cable channel that was launched, which he was aware of, appealing to young Hispanics who want Mexican, Spanish-language themes or culture themes like the telenovelas, but in English. In other words, their culture and background is Hispanic—Mexican, let us say—but their language—and they’re bilingual, but they want to hear it in English. This is the theory.

And he said, it’s not really going to work, because—and this was a positive reason for this, not for the cable channel—in that once they reach that stage, they will either watch their cultural heritage in Spanish or the American programs, the American side, in English on their regular American channels.

So that’s one way, just psychologically in the marketplace, that can—

SURO: Just a quick addition to these categories issues that have been mentioned, which I agree with—Hispanics, according to the Census Bureau definition, can be of any race.


SURO: And they’re supposed to fill out the race question as well. The race question on the census, if you look at it, is one of the more bizarre listings of race that you would ever want to see. It’s got—my last count, I think it’s 14 races listed in the—

CHAMIE: Combinations of races.

SURO: Well, no. Fourteen races.

UTLEY: Boxes.

SURO: And then the combinations—you can get up to 63 or 126 or what—(laughter).

One of the real problems with the Hispanic category—I haven’t looked at the more recent data, but it used to be the case and I think it probably still is—but a very substantial fraction of people who check Hispanic on the census indicate no race.

CHAMIE: Some other race.

SURO: Some other race.

CHAMIE: Forty-two percent.

SURO: Forty-two percent. (Laughter.) I was going to say 40 percent.

That’s confusing, if you will, if you have all of these convoluted categories and the people are answering the same question.

UTLEY: Before we turn to your questions for the discussion, let me just raise one point. We can’t treat this in isolation of the United States. Let’s look at this 300 million and where we’re going in terms of America and its competitive position in the world—all aspects. That’s social; that’s economic; it’s military, political power. We know what’s happening—the demographics in Europe and the E.U. We know Russia, Japan. We know a good part of East Asia—China now with a one-child policy is going to pay the price in about 20 years in a serious way. India keeps going, but it’s a young population.

So when you look at the United States and then population growth, and look at it from the point of view that if at mid-century we’re 450 million or so, that’s an even larger, prosperous—generally—consumer society marketplace with transparent and well-established structures in judicial system accounting, more or less, et cetera, et cetera, where people want to invest to a common social group. Some people would argue this is almost an ideal situation—the perfect storm in a positive way for America.

If you also look at it in terms of how we could finance our military power interests around the world, if the economy grows because of this population growth, it will cost us even a smaller proportion of our GDP to maintain the same military advantage that we have today.

So just a couple of ideas there, and also for the discussion. But any—is this a misinterpretation—

SURO: Well, I—just to be contentious, let me disagree slightly with what Michael said in terms of this notion that population growth is sort of a neutral matter that doesn’t matter—that isn’t relevant to policy discussions.

You know, I think one of the reasons why there’s so much anxiety in a lot of the public about immigration and about the growth of the population is because it’s not been discussed as a matter of policy, and perhaps it should be—at the level of a national discussion as to what it is we’re trying to achieve, what kind of country we want to be. I mean, it’s happened in the past. It happened in the colonial era; it happened in the progressive era; it happened at different times in our history. We have sat and said, “All right, who do we want to be? How do we want to shape our population,” particularly in terms of immigration, but also other policies that either reward people who have children—make it easier to have children or not.

And it’s one of the reasons why immigration policy is so difficult is because there is no definition of success. We’ve never talked about what our goals are, and so we have—there’s no—if you don’t know what—how you define success; how do you measure whether you’ve arrived there or what you’re willing to do to achieve it? And I think this is a subject that is—does merit a policy discussion.

CHAMIE: Joe, can I just follow—

Yeah. The numbers are very, very clear. The U.S. population has remained a little under 5 percent of the world’s population, and that’s going to continue that way with our growth. The world’s population today is about 6.6 billion; we’re 300 million—a little under 5 percent. We’re going to continue growing. There’s no doubt about it. I’m willing to make wagers with anyone here that we’re going to be much bigger in the next 5, 10, or 20 years.

What’s happening— Europe has peaked, and most people don’t even recognize that. The population of Europe after centuries of growth has now plateaued and it’s declining. Russia’s declining. Japan is declining. Many of the Eastern European populations are declining. And many countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan, Korea—South Korea—are having programs to encourage women to have more children. Those programs are relatively ineffective—okay?—relatively ineffective.

What’s happened is we’ve had an enormous demographic shift. The beginning of the 20 th century, a working-class woman in England would have 10 pregnancies. Okay? I don’t think any woman in this room has had 10 pregnancies. Okay? (Laughter.) That shift has been enormous, having enormous implications, and that’s been the consequences for the aging.

So the U.S. is going to get bigger, but it’s also going to get older, and that’s what Greenspan and the current chairman are concerned about. And that’s what concerning Europe and this immigration that comes in.

UTLEY: But not as old as Europe or Japan.

SURO: We’re much younger than Europe. We have a younger—

UTLEY: Mid-century median age?

SURO: It will probably be like 40, 41. Okay?

But Italy will be 53, 54, the average age.

TEITELBAUM: Just to complicate things, Europe is very diverse in this regard. So France has fertility rates approximating now the U.S., and Italy has much lower fertility rates. They’re both in Europe. The Nordic countries have much higher fertility, as does the U.K., than do the southern tier.

Now a lot of that southern tier very low fertility along the Mediterranean is due to delay. We know that because the women are just not getting married and the ages they used to get married, or they’re not having children if they’re not married.

So actually there are more similarities—I never thought I would say this, but there are more similarities between Italy and Japan than there are between Italy and Germany, with respect to fertility behavior and marriage behavior.

UTLEY: What also caught my attention was Joe’s comment about that we will sustain our position at 5 percent of population, which is really a remarkable achievement, in quotation marks, if you consider it an achievement, in terms—and it will be a very key factor in our potential role in the world.

CHAMIE: Right. We anticipate the world’s population by mid-century will be a little more than 9 billion—a lot of that growth in Africa. They’re going to have a billion, another half billion in India. So 5 percent of 9 billion is about 450 million, which I think the U.S. population will easily make by mid-century.

SURO: Yeah. And what kind of immigration rates would we have to sustain, too?

CHAMIE: I think right now—the average that we’re seeing—I mean, the official number is 1.1 (million) that we’re getting in. But the average in the ‘90s—

UTLEY: One point one—

CHAMIE: Million.

SURO: Oh, yeah. In addition to the population.

CHAMIE: Roughly. There’s no one really leaving. Once you get in, you want to stay here.

But the average number in the ‘90s was 1.47 (million)—about a million and a half. I think the actual number, and many people have come up with—I think it’s closer to like 1.7 (million), 1.8 million, coming in, because they’re not really counting everyone. We have so many people coming in that are not registered, that are not authorized—over-stayers and so on.

So that’s another factor that contributing to the growth.

UTLEY: Okay.

Let’s go to your questions, or just for our conversation, there are some microphones. That’s for recording purposes rather than the acoustical problems here. So please, anybody have any thoughts here or other questions that they would like to have our panel address, in terms of what’s happening in this country or what’s happening elsewhere?

Just state your name, please.

QUESTIONER: Elizabeth Bramwell, Bramwell Capital.

I was wondering if you’d talk about some of the qualitative changes in attitudes towards some of these things such as thrift, education, hard work, and perhaps loyalty or the appreciation of American citizenship.

UTLEY: We might also ask, add one more point—women. Is the demographic itself going to influence the role and position of women in American society?

There’s a long list there, but who wants to take care of them?

TEITELBAUM: Thrift we can easily dispose of. The savings rate is very low. It’s probably not measured very accurately, but it’s extraordinarily low in the United States—personal savings rate. So if that’s a measure of thrift, it’s changed dramatically.

Some of the others are much harder—loyalty, I don’t know how to measure.

CHAMIE: Well, you could—marriage, for example, has changed. People are delaying marriage five years. Okay? And we don’t even know what marriage means any more because so many people cohabitate, right? So it’s really ruined it for the demographers. We used to use age as—marriage as the initiation to sexual risk.

So ages at marriage—

UTLEY: Will you repeat that again? (Laughter.)

CHAMIE: For demographers, marriage being redefined by cohabitation—we don’t have any numbers on it, all right? So we’re trying to estimate it. But people aren’t married; they cohabitate. Then we have—how long did they cohabitate? Is it an evening or a weekend or a month or a year? (Laughter.)

But to talk about what’s happened as a result of the changes in fertility, women have left the kitchen and gone to the universities. Let me give you some figures. They’ve gone—in the ‘70s, if you look at the Ph.D.s, medical students, dentists, law students—in 1970, 8 percent of the graduates in medicine were women. Now—2000—43 percent. Ph.D.s, 13 percent; now, 49 percent. Law used to be 5 percent, now it’s 46 percent.

All of that stuff has changed. Women have careers. They’ve delayed childbearing. They’ve delayed marriage. That affects the entire society, relations between men and women and family upbringing and values and consumption and so on.

UTLEY: So do you see basic changes, any of you, in terms of the role of women or the presence of women, just through the demographic—or what Joe was talking about right here?

SURO: Garrick, that trend seems to have plateaued basically. I mean, the employment of women increased very dramatically over these 40 years we’re talking about, but the increase has not been sustained. It seems to have plateaued in the last 10 years, and it actually has fallen off some because there is something of a return to childbearing. The baby boom echo is now in the process—is coming into its childbearing years. And so it will be interesting to see whether we see a change there.

TEITELBAUM: Big differences between the U.S. in this regard. What they’re saying is correct, but if you compare it to Italy and Japan—my favorite pair—there you have very low reproduction rates outside of wedlock. Very low. Like 2 percent in Japan, 10 percent in Italy, whereas in the Nordic countries—again, I’m making the point about Europe—in the Nordic countries of Europe, it’s 55 percent out of wedlock, which is much higher than the U.S., which—

UTLEY: See, demography sounds like a dull profession. (Laughter.) But where these guys get involved, it becomes quite intimate and quite interesting.


QUESTIONER: I’m Sheldon Segal, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation, and now at the Population Council.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to the last question about how—perhaps a paranoid feeling that her question dealt with whether a change in, quote, “racial mix,” is causing a loss of patriotism, thrift, family values, et cetera, because we’re becoming less white, Caucasian America and more “other.” It’s a concept which I fiercely disagree with, but maybe I misinterpreted that.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

QUESTIONER: But what I—(inaudible)—ask whether the—whether Michael in particular would have a background to have an opinion about this—whether the interests of the, say ‘50s and ‘60s, on the part of American foundations and special organizations in population growth had an element of concern about quality of population as well as quality of population.

TEITELBAUM: Well, I think there were some people in those foundations that thought about quality—meaning education for children as distinct from the—

QUESTIONER: More the carry-over of the eugenic—

TEITELBAUM: Oh. Oh, oh, oh. No. I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so.

UTLEY: This is what we call the Larry Summers opportunity. (Laughter.)

TEITELBAUM: When I think of quality, I think of skills and education, and there was certainly an interest in raising the skill level in countries that had very high fertility rates. One way to do that is to have fewer children per family so that more of the—a higher percentage of the children can get educated.

SURO: Let me answer the question that may or may not have been asked—(laughter)—about whether immigrants or, say, Hispanics, have different attitudes on that menu of things.

Family: There’s no question that on questions like, “Should adult children take care of their elderly parents; should adult children live with their parents until marriage?” Hispanics, particularly Hispanic immigrants, are way off the charts on family values compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Percentages of intact families—you know, husband, wife, children—again, you see a different pattern.

In terms of work, the highest rates of employment in population are in the recently arrived immigrant populations.

And as to U.S. institutions, one of the things we’ve seen over and over again in polling immigrants is that the most, least acculturated, most Spanish-speaking Hispanics have the highest estimation of U.S. institutions that you’ll find anywhere in the public. And what happens over time, as they learn English, as they spend more time here, they do what in social science is called regressing to the mean, and they adopt what is the very cynical attitude—they approximate. They never quite become quite as cynical as the native population, which has very low esteem for most public institutions.

UTLEY: If you look back at American history too—and we’ll go back to the latter part of the 19 th century—these same issues were being addressed with different population groups. Then, of course, many people feared that German was going to become a dominant language. There were communities where they wanted the public education and everything in German.

CHAMIE: Well, and we did.

UTLEY: And they did. They did.


UTLEY: You also—go ahead.

CHAMIE: And the attacks against Irish, for example, were much worse than against the Mexicans today. I mean, they really took a beating at that time from the English, basically.

UTLEY: If you look at the measures that were taken, that we think that go way back—they go back to the last part of the 19 th century—flag waving. Flag waving started from something called “Flag Day” in 1880-something. There was a school teacher in Wisconsin who—(inaudible)—these German-speaking, you know, immigrants, and he said, “We have to make Americans.” And he started passing out flags, and the movement took hold to such an extent within two years there was a rally in Chicago with 100,000 people, you know, waving flags.

Pledge of Allegiance, I think, came in a couple of years later. The national memorials, with the exception of the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson, they were all turn of the century, early part of the century. And the National Anthem, as we know, was not adopted officially until 1931 or ‘32.

So there was a very—which is also a policy approach, if you will.

TEITELBAUM: World War I had something to do with—

UTLEY: Had a lot to do with it.

TEITELBAUM: Well, yeah, but still, you’re right.

CHAMIE: Compared to Europe and other regions, I think the U.S. gets very high grades—at least above 90 percent. The Europeans are getting very low grades in this integration issue.

UTLEY: Question right here and then we’ll go back there.

QUESTIONER: Roberto, there is—

UTLEY: Please identify yourself.

QUESTIONER: There is a—the plan—

UTLEY: Fritz Link.

QUESTIONER: I’m Fritz Link from Davis Polk & Wardwell.

The plan that the president seems to be advocating is one of Gastarbeiterschaft, the sort that Europeans generally think has failed. But again, that’s the problem in Europe is that the nonintegration has come about because they’re constantly going in and doing—(word inaudible)—and racing people back to Algeria and that sort of stuff.

How popular would that be, or how feasible is that with the Latin American population? There certainly are a lot of Latin Americans who come up here and remain more Latin American than the Puerto Ricans who came in the ‘50s. Is that workable at all?

SURO: Well, I—there’s certainly a segment of a population, particularly of young males in Latin America, who, if offered the prospect of coming to the United States for four, six years, eight years—if you go much more beyond that, the potential for them going home really becomes reduced—but who would on paper be, I think, attracted to the notion. And many people do come here with the idea that they’re only coming temporarily. And when you—in polling recent immigrants, it is—there’s a big gender difference. Women tend to come to the United States and think they’re staying, often because they’re joining a man or they’re looking for real change in their circumstances that’s not available in their home countries. Among male workers, you do see a large percentage who in the first five years say, “I’m going home after a period of time.”

So there are two questions: Can you produce inducements to go home? And it’s go home to what? People leave not because they’re unemployed, but because they don’t receive opportunities in their home countries. So a guest worker program would work with Mexico, say, if somebody coming to the United States, spending four or five years here, gaining a great deal of skills, learning some English, learning how to function in a modern, industrial, post-industrial workplace, then had some expectation that when they went home, there’d be something to do. Absent that, it won’t work.

UTLEY: Michael.

TEITELBAUM: Well, researchers on immigration disagree on almost everything, but on this subject there is remarkable near unanimity, which is that temporary worker programs consisting of workers from low-income countries to high-income countries never work out the way they are promised by their proponents—universally. And there are some exceptions, which I can point to, and you’ll see why they make—the exceptions make the point.

Universally there are always more settlers settling out of the rotating flow that is promised by the proponents of the temporary worker program. And at the end, when it’s ended—and it was ended, as you said correctly, in the ‘70s across Europe—everyone says, well, how did that happen? This was supposed to be temporary. How did we end up with millions of permanent residents?

The exceptions are the Gulf states. In the Gulf states—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and so on—there they have genuinely temporary workers, because they don’t give them visas. They simply give their employers license to import them in the same way they get licenses to import cement. And if the employer fires them, they must leave. They are no longer entitled to stay there. And they are kept separate from the indigenous population and so on.

You’ve got—you can’t be a liberal democracy—I think the consensus would be you can’t be a liberal democracy and have a temporary worker program that is not permanent.

UTLEY: Okay.

Question back there.

QUESTIONER: I’m Jason Tepperman from Baker Capital.

I’d be curious as to the panel’s views on whether we are more or less effective today at economically integrated immigrants. And one fact would come to mind as to whether—how much time it would take for an immigrant today, legal or otherwise, to obtain a median standard of living versus 20 years or 100 years or further back?


CHAMIE: That’s very complicated, because of the people coming in, there’s some selectivity going on. If you go back 200 years, I mean, how many were college graduates? I mean, what were they doing? They were doing farming, basically. So the comparison’s very, very difficult.

You can compare certain countries, like Canada and the U.S., and they have point systems of bringing in talented immigrants— Australia, the same.

My own impression is that the immigrants are integrating very rapidly—very rapidly. If you look at intermarriage rates, they’re intermarrying very, very quickly. So I think socially and culturally they’re integrating, and I think economically there’s going to be a great deal of mobility.

The only problem comes in is their children are not going to pick grapes and peaches and stuff. So you’re going to have to keep bringing more in if you want those people to do that. I mean, your parents may have come in and been doing manual work or work that you would not do, and the same thing with many of the Mexicans, who are the predominant number of foreign-born right now. Their children aren’t likely to be picking tomatoes and grapes. They’re going to be doing the things that you’re doing.

SURO: It’s depends more than anything on the education of the immigrant. An immigrant with a college education—certainly with post-baccalaureate degrees—as a whole out-perform natives in the same education gradients.

At the low end of the skill level, they often end up in the occupations where real increase in wages are very slow, if at all.

MR. …. : Or declining.

SURO: Or declining. And in fact, they’ve been declining for the last two or three years—in home construction, the hospitality industry—the industries where you get large numbers of low-skilled immigrants.

TEITELBAUM: I was a member of the Commission on Immigration Reform. And we looked at this integration question pretty carefully. We were very supportive of doing things that would enhance the rate of integration of immigrants.

And what we noticed, I think, and concluded was that the labor market, as has been said, is a very dynamic force for integration of immigrants into the United States—unlike, say, in France where the labor market is not serving to integrate immigrants. What has changed, though, is a weakening of other institutions that were very important historically in the integration of previous waves of immigrants. And if you think about them, they were the churches, the schools, the neighborhoods, et cetera.

Those kinds of voluntary organizations and public education systems have somewhat weakened in terms of their ability to integrate. And that is something worth paying attention to.

UTLEY: Person over here.

QUESTIONER: Bob Yaro from Regional Plan Association here in New York.

Can you comment on the merits of the kind of merit-based immigration systems that the rest of the—it seems like the rest of the industrialized world, the Canadians, the Australians—the U.K. just adopted one where basically, show them a master’s degree or a load of money and you’re in. We’ve made it very difficult for—making it increasingly difficult for highly skilled workers to come in.

Can you comment on the merits of those systems and whether we should be considering changes in the immigration policy in this country that might encourage the same kind of pattern?

UTLEY: Michael, why don’t you start, because you’re on the commission?

TEITELBAUM: Yeah, well, we recommended changes along those lines. There are some problems with those. The Canadian system in particular has surprisingly, since it is merit-based or skills-based—heavily skills-based, as you indicated—surprising levels of nonsuccessful integration into the work force on the part of highly educated immigrants who were selected by their point system. That’s not a good thing about the Canadian system.

But it does have the virtue that people are—there’s a priority given to people with skills, many of which they can earn, if these are not intrinsic abilities or intrinsic characteristics of nationality or whatever. They are things that you can get, if you would like.

There are a lot of virtues to that system. The U.S. doesn’t have that at all. And that’s why you end up with the kind of distribution of skills that was described earlier. You get a “twin peaks” kind of distribution of skills in the U.S. immigration sector with a very large peak of very low-skilled, low-educated immigrants, and a large peak of very high-skilled, highly educated, and a big valley in the middle.

SURO: But that’s not a function of policy, because the low-skilled immigration primarily comes into the country outside the system.

TEITELBAUM: Well, that is the policy. The policy is the family-based policy and the noninforcement of the legal restrictions on immigration. I would call that a policy or an implicit policy.

UTLEY: Right here.

QUESTIONER: I’m Frank Sutton. I’m old enough to remember a time when demographers were in bad odor because they had quite underestimated the future population of the United States. And all sorts of projections in the ‘50s were being doubted because of that failure.

CHAMIE: Is it—

TEITELBAUM: Never believe a long-range demographic projection—(inaudible).

QUESTIONER: Well, that’s my point. Do—everyone seems to be confident of a general trend of the population and no possibility of crashes and so forth and fundamental changes such as we had with the Second World War and so forth. I would like to know what you think.

CHAMIE: Yeah, I think the evidence shows that these immigration projections are much better than any other projections. You’re going to get climate, stock market, you know, economy, fashion. I mean, we’re much better than any of these other groups. (Laughter.)

TEITELBAUM: It’s true.

CHAMIE: The projections we made in the ‘50s at the United Nations were evaluated by the National Academy of Science. And they found them to be—very—relatively small error on those projections.

I don’t think any –

QUESTIONER: That was the ‘50s. But the projections that were made in the ‘30s had a very bad effect on things I was trying to do in the ‘50s. (Laughter.)

SURO: One thing we have to talk about is, what are we projecting? Like, if someone’s 40 today, in 10 years they’re going to be 50, or dead. I mean, that’s clear, right?

In the ‘30s, the problem was that they had a collapse of fertility—had very, very low fertility. And people looking were saying, that’s going to continue. And they didn’t understand that there was going to be a world war and that fertility would come back and it would be going up.

But what we have right now is a very different situation. Virtually everywhere in the world couples want—especially women—two to three children, no more. They don’t want 10; they don’t want eight. They want a couple of children nearly everywhere in the world. Some exceptions— Africa.

That range is so small, okay, and we have a good handle on the deaths. In the world, there are no aliens coming in, so it’s a closed system. (Laughter.) So we’re very—we could estimate pretty well what the population’s going to be in 25, 40, 50 years.

And for the U.S., as I said, anyone that thinks that the U.S. is going to be smaller or not 400 million by mid-century, I’m ready to take a wager out with them, because it is so clear. Even with influenza epidemic in 1918—and this was a blip on the radar for the population growth of the U.S.

UTLEY: Henry—question up here.

QUESTIONER: I remember in 1930 and 1940s, the program here was that every nation had a specific quota of immigrants which they allowed to come. How is it nowadays?

TEITELBAUM: That was the national origins quota system, which came out of the 1920s, essentially. And it was a very—it was a system set up to maintain the ethnic or national origin composition of the U.S. population similar to that of the World War I period. That was the intent of it. It was done away with in 1965. The national origins quota system has been gone since 1965.

UTLEY: One last question here.

QUESTIONER: Rudolph Rauch from Opera News.

If it’s true that the only countries that can really effectively seal their borders against guest workers are those like the Gulf states where they handle these people as though they were cement, then how would you—if you were going to advise a policymaker here to come up with something more intelligent than building a, say, 800-mile fence, what would be your suggestion that he should do?

CHAMIE: He should read Michael’s report. (Laughter.) A few years—(inaudible).

TEITELBAUM: Yeah, it might take awhile to say what things can be done. But very briefly, the barriers have some value, but if you don’t have any enforcement in the interior, in the work force—and that is the situation. There are lots of barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s zero, essentially, enforcement in the interior—then you will not be able to have any effect, because all that is required is for the person to try several times. The probability of apprehension may rise, but there’s always going to be some probability of success. If they try enough times, once they’re in, there’s no way to enforce it.

So you have to come up with an effective interior enforcement system. There is nothing like that in the United States, although it was supposed to have been part of the 1986 Immigration Act.

UTLEY: Let’s close, if we can, coming back from that specific take on America to the more global. The gentlemen for the Population Council were talking about—we heard about the 6 billion and going to 9 billion by the latter part of this century—and that, you know, this is, you know, standing room only. We’ve had stories, books like this before. Most of the world, not all of the world, seems to handle that.

Now, is this a story of failure? Is this a story of success in population stabilization—even if we’re growing by 50 percent within a century—on this globe of ours? Because what you’re saying, and others were saying, is it will level out at about 9 billion people for various demographic, momentum reasons right there.

So is this a success story of what’s happened to the world’s population or a failure?

CHAMIE: I always tell people when I speak publicly, this is a success story.

We started early in our history of the world, very high death rates and very high birth rates. We’re moving to very low death rates and very low birth rates. And we want to make that transition as fast as possible. The reason for that rapid growth was the difference between the birth rates and death rates was very, very large and we had very explosive growth. We’re past that period.

The peak growth of 2 percent was in 1967. The peak number was in 1987—about 90 million. We’re coming down. That’s great! When people have control over death and birth, especially premature death, then you’re attaining what we want and we’ve had great success: Europe, North America, East Asia, Latin America. The only place left, really, to go through this transition, remarkably— Africa and some parts of South Asia, India in particular, Pakistan.

This is the success story, especially for women, who now have the ability to control their fertility. And for all of us, since we can live to see our grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

UTLEY: You agree?

SURO: Yeah, and what’s made that work for advanced industrial countries, particularly the United States, is the fact that as these two numbers come closer together, the added characteristic is mobility. It has become increasingly characteristic of the world’s population.

And there are certain economies, like ours, that are particularly built—in the last 10 years especially—around the need for human mobility. We have a labor market that has certain demands and this point for workers of all types in a large part of that demand. And almost all of the growth in the labor force is coming through international mobility.

And the question is, how do you get sort of public policies in line with the demands of the economy and have something like a regulative scheme, rather than what we’ve got now where most of the entry is not regulated.

TEITELBAUM: Yes, success, I would say. Surprised along the way. Nobody really anticipated that the Maoist position of furthering additional births would be reversed and become the most draconian in reducing births. And since China is such a big percentage of the world’s population, their dramatic plummeting fertility decline made a big difference in these long-range projections that Joe Chamie’s organization was doing so effectively.

The other thing to say about it is the success has been over-generalized to the point that you will find among some of those same funders, who were very interested in lowering fertility rates in the Third World in the ‘60s, ‘50s, ‘70s, they now seem to believe that it’s been done—that everything has been successful. That’s not the case.

And Joe has already alluded to the regions of the world—there are important regions of the world where there has not been success, and it would be a mistake to generalize from the China and Europe—

UTLEY: Well, let me just—what I found fascinating—I’m sure we all have today—is on the one hand talking number statistics—300 million, 9 billion can sound found very dull again, but in the end or the beginning, it’s about us. So we’re just one of those 300 million or 9 billion, or 8 million here in New York City.

I would just pass on a comment, to bring it back home, which I’m sure is not news to any of you. I was talking to somebody in city government about their economic planning—you’re involved in the regional planning. And this is—what’s the basic economic theory or model for New York? And it’s about economic growth, and you figure, we want the population to go up. It has gone down. It’s come back up now. Everybody’s very encouraged. You can see the boom in construction.

And the idea—we figured out how much it cost in city services and taxes to support each new inhabitant of New York, versus what that individual creates in terms of wealth, and that’s a plus side for New York City.

So then he summed it up in short: Our economic policy is to see how many people we can jam into New York City and still keep the traffic moving. (Laughter.) So it’s now 7:00. You can go out and find out on Park Avenue—(laughter)—whether that’s working or not.

But we thank you very much and thank the panel for being with us today. (Applause.)








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