With a population of more than 330 million people, the United States is the third most populous country in the world. The U.S. is considered a demographically advanced society, with low fertility and mortality rates, although its birth rate is slightly higher than its death rate, which maintains natural population growth. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, life expectancy from birth is around 77 years in the United States, which puts it outside of the top 50 countries - this has even dropped in some recent years, and the decline has been attributed to high rates of obesity, barriers to healthcare access, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. High rates of drug use (illegal and prescription) and gun violence are also considered major obstacles to progress. Nonetheless, the United States’ population is expected to continue growing naturally throughout the remainder of the century, in contrast to many other more developed countries, and is predicted to be over 430 million by 2100.
The U.S. population also grows through migration - in absolute numbers, the U.S. has the largest foreign-born population in the world and has had the highest net immigration virtually every year since international records are available. The population of the U.S. is considered one of the most multicultural in the world, and is often referred to as a melting pot or salad bowl society because of this diversity. Differences in demographics and living standards do exist across various ethnic groups, in areas such as fertility rates, life expectancy, and education, although many of these issues also correlate with income and region. Since the mid-1900s, Latin America (especially Mexico) has been the most common point of origin for migrants to the U.S., and Hispanics or Latinos are now the largest ethnic minority group in the United States. Many of the fastest growing cities and metropolitan areas are located along the Mexican border, not only due to migration, but also due to higher fertility rates among Hispanic women.
Before Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, the population of mainland North America was estimated to have been approximately 4.4 million people. As European contact increased, especially in the 1600s, the native population went into decline; this was primarily due to the introduction of old world diseases, as well as violence and forced displacement. Therefore, in the 17th and 18th centuries, population growth in the United States was largely driven by European settlement and the importation of enslaved Africans. The transatlantic slave trade was then abolished in 1808, and this coincided with a sharp uptick in migration from Europe.
The 19th century also saw the onset of the demographic transition in the U.S. – the share of children who died before their fifth birthday fell from over 46 percent in 1800 to less than one percent in the year 2000, and the average woman went from having roughly seven children in 1800 to just two by the 1940s. Urbanization and industrialization also increased throughout these centuries; at first it was concentrated in the Northeast, before spreading westward during the 20th century, following the country’s territorial expansion. There were some major spikes in mortality throughout U.S. history; the deadliest conflict was the American Civil War, which claimed over 620,000 lives; and waves of pandemics such as cholera, influenza, and yellow fever also had death tolls in the tens of thousands. However, population growth was fairly rapid, and largely coincided with significant improvements in living standards and income for the majority of American citizens.
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