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Population of the United States 1610-2020

Published by Aaron O'Neill,
In the past four centuries, the population of the United States has grown from a recorded 350 people around the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1610, to an estimated 331 million people in 2020. The pre-colonization populations of the indigenous peoples of the Americas have proven difficult for historians to estimate, as their numbers decreased rapidly following the introduction of European diseases (namely smallpox, plague and influenza). Native Americans were also omitted from most censuses conducted before the twentieth century, therefore the actual population of what we now know as the United States would have been much higher than the official census data from before 1800, but it is unclear by how much. Population growth in the colonies throughout the eighteenth century has primarily been attributed to migration from the British Isles and the Transatlantic slave trade; however it is also difficult to assert the ethnic-makeup of the population in these years as accurate migration records were not kept until after the 1820s, at which point the importation of slaves had also been illegalized.

Nineteenth century

In the year 1800, it is estimated that the population across the present-day United States was around six million people, with the population in the 16 admitted states numbering at 5.3 million. Migration to the United States began to happen on a large scale in the mid-nineteenth century, with the first major waves coming from Ireland, Britain and Germany. In some aspects, this wave of mass migration balanced out the demographic impacts of the American Civil War, which was the deadliest war in U.S. history with approximately 620 thousand fatalities between 1861 and 1865. The civil war also resulted in the emancipation of around four million slaves across the south; many of whose ancestors would take part in the Great Northern Migration in the early 1900s, which saw around six million black Americans migrate away from the south in one of the largest demographic shifts in U.S. history. By the end of the nineteenth century, improvements in transport technology and increasing economic opportunities saw migration to the United States increase further, particularly from southern and Eastern Europe, and in the first decade of the 1900s the number of migrants to the U.S. exceeded one million people in some years.

Twentieth and twenty-first century

The U.S. population has grown steadily throughout the past 120 years, reaching one hundred million in the 1910s, two hundred million in the 1960s, and three hundred million in 2007. In the past century, the U.S. established itself as a global superpower, with the world's largest economy (by nominal GDP) and most powerful military. Involvement in foreign wars has resulted in over 620,000 further U.S. fatalities since the Civil War, and migration fell drastically during the World Wars and Great Depression; however the population continuously grew in these years as the total fertility rate remained above two births per woman, and life expectancy increased (except during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918).

Since the Second World War, Latin America has replaced Europe as the most common point of origin for migrants, with Hispanic populations growing rapidly across the south and border states. Because of this, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites, which has been the most dominant ethnicity in the U.S. since records began, has dropped more rapidly in recent decades. Ethnic minorities also have a much higher birth rate than non-Hispanic whites, further contributing to this decline, and the share of non-Hispanic whites is expected to fall below fifty percent of the U.S. population by the mid-2000s. In 2020, the United States has the third-largest population in the world (after China and India), and the population is expected to reach four hundred million in the 2050s.

Population of the United States from 1610 to 2020

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Sources

Release date

August 2019

Region

United States

Survey time period

1610 to 2020

Supplementary notes

Generally, Native Americans were omitted from official census data prior to 1860, and only taxpaying Native Americans were included in the censuses between 1870 and 1890. Black Americans were generally always counted, including slaves; the "three-fifths compromise" (where only 60 percent of a state's slave population was recorded) applied to governmental and taxational aspects relating to slaveholding states, and its influence on census data is unclear, but minimal.

Data before 1800 is given in ten year intervals, data from 1800 onwards is given annually. "Former borders" relates to censuses conducted within the borders of the British colonies, and the borders of the United States as various states were admitted.

Separate data available for Alaska, prior to admission, is as follows (in thousands);
1880: 33
1890: 32
1900: 64
1910: 64
1920: 55
1929: 59
1939: 73
1950: 129

Data was compiled from various sources, namely the United Nations, Gapminder, and "International Historical Statistics: The Americas 1750-1988" by B.R. Mitchell (1993).

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