By Joe Guzzardi
The recently released U.S. Census Bureau data on 2016 population growth in cities and their outlying areas arrives at one inescapable conclusion: suburban communities which once offered relief from overcrowded urban areas are rapidly growing. And with that growth comes more urban sprawl. Larger swaths of wide open spaces will vanish as residential and commercial development plow under agricultural land and environmental habitats. Queens College demographer Andy Beveridge calls the phenomena "boomburbs."
As expected, the most dramatic growth occurred in the suburban West and South. Among the fastest-growing among cities with 50,000 or more inhabitants were in outlying Dallas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Nashville and Houston. Texas was particularly hard-hit. Four of the top five growth cities, as measured by percentage increases, were located in the Lone Star State.
While the population growth rate in major cities slowed in comparison to the suburbs, it still advanced. New York City added 21,171 people and remained the nation's largest city with 8.4 million people, more than twice the total of the second largest municipality, Los Angeles. New York City has a crushingly high population density, 27,000 persons per square mile. Along with NYC, Phoenix, San Antonio and Seattle made up the top five in net population growth. All five had population increases of 20,000 or more. Chicago, another major metropolis, doubtlessly hurt by its reputation as America's murder capital, netted just 5,900 new residents.
Raw numbers and percentages do a poor job of reflecting what unsustainable population growth truly means. Demographers at NumbersUSA, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for lower immigration levels, crunched the Census data, and came up with more tangible methods of calculating growth's costly consequences. Findings from its analysis of growth-hammered Texas showed that the state adds about 455,000 people to its population every year, or about 8,750 each week. More people obviously means more roads must be built, 2,500 annually, and more houses constructed, 115,000 per year. Gone are Texas' croplands, forests, fields, and prairies, and the wildlife that once inhabited them. In their place, to the delight of developers and growth-is-good proponents, is cement.
U.S. population growth is accelerating at a rate found only in Third World countries, and immigration is its chief driver. According to the Census Bureau, 82 percent of population growth is attributable to immigrants and their U.S.-born children. And projections are that, assuming current immigration policies remain unchanged, of the 117 million that will be added to the population by 2060, 88 percent will be directly related to federal immigration policies.
This isn't immigrant-bashing. New immigrants need roads to drive on, houses to live in, and schools to send their children to learn. But it is an indictment of current and past administrations that refuse to include the population variable in their debates about legislation that would increase immigration. Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton reviewed his sustainability task force's report. President Clinton concluded that reducing immigration is "a sensitive issue," but nevertheless a necessary part of population stabilization.
As it turned out, no one listened to President Clinton either then or since, and U.S. population continues ever upward.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.