The U.S. needs more people, whether through Americans having more babies or more immigrants settling in this country, a new report, “Economic Policy in a More Uncertain World,” concludes. The report from an arm of the Aspen Institute led by two former Treasury Secretaries avers that failure to increase the U.S. population is among the biggest economic risks for the years and decades ahead. For much of the 21st century, a lack of adequate demand has been a predominant challenge, but now the central challenge is supply: improving the ability of the economy to make stuff. Worsening demographic trends imply persistent labor shortages, slumping growth, and struggles to fund Social Security and other retirement programs. The U.S. fertility rate has fallen sharply since 2007 and is well below the “replacement rate” that implies a steady population, in the absence of immigration. The “total fertility rate,” the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime, was 2.12 in 2007 and dropped down to 1.65 in 2021, the lowest ever recorded in the U.S.
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