A new report released by the Economic Innovation Group has revealed an increasingly grim present and future for the United States, especially those corners of the oft-romanticized heartland, in terms of population growth. Our population has dipped to 80-year lows, with 80% of U.S. counties losing prime working-age adults (25-54) between the years 2007 to 2017. It’s projected that this trend will continue for 65% of counties over the next decade. Furthermore, 41% of U.S. counties (home to 38 million Americans) are struggling under rates of demographic decline resembling that of Japan’s.
An increasingly aging population, fueled by population decline, poses an extreme logistical problem on multiple fronts. First, Americans must reckon with increased demand for competent geriatric care, a notoriously poorly regulated field to begin with. The priorities for an elderly population may also not be as oriented towards the radical change needed to combat catastrophic climate change. There’s also the potential for stunted economic growth, and as Moody Analytics’ senior economist Adam Ozimek notes in the EIG report, ”[D]emographic challenges … disproportionately [affect] economically struggling places. Economists and policymakers need to understand that these demographic problems are not merely an outcome of socioeconomic problems: They are also a cause.”
A New York Times analysis by Neil Irwin noted how so-called “flyover states” are hardest hit by population decline, writing, “Many younger workers move to bustling urban centers on the coasts, leaving smaller cities and rural areas behind. Immigrants bolster the labor force but also disproportionately go to those same big coastal cities.”
The solution? Immigration (cue a cheesy Hamilton reference)! Right as Donald Trump is declaring America “FULL” and threatening to close the U.S.-Mexican border, the EIG report’s authors are suggesting a visa directing immigrants to those parts of the country experiencing drastic population decline. The “Heartland Visa” would allow eligible communities to opt into the program, in which skilled immigrants could obtain visas to live and work in that particular area without being beholden to a specific employer.