March 18, 2024

Census Bureau: US Population Grew by One-Half Per Cent in 2023: But Lots of Confusion Over Immigration Data

Census Bureau: US Population Grew by One-Half Per Cent in 2023:  But Lots of Confusion Over Immigration Data

The US Census Bureau just released its population estimates for 2023. Each year, between the decadal censuses, the Bureau conducts an in-depth survey to estimate annual population changes. The surveys measure changes as of July 1 each year.

According to this year’s survey, the population of the US increased by a little over 1.6 million to 335 million last year. That was about a one-half percent increase over 2022.  Population growth fell to almost nothing during the pandemic but has been gradually recovering since. However, the population growth is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Eight states lost population in 2023 compared to fourteen that lost population in 2021. South Carolina, Florida and Texas had the largest percentage gains, in that order. New York and Louisiana had the largest percentage losses. According to the Census Bureau, New York has lost 631,000 residents just since 2020.

The Census Bureau prepared this map that shows which parts of the country are gaining population and which part are losing population.

What I found most interesting, however, was the estimates breaking down the components of the population growth. The report showed that natural growth, i.e., the numbers of births over deaths, was 500,000. That is about double last year as deaths fell significantly when the pandemic wound down. The Census report only showed a small increase in net immigration from 1 million in 2022 to 1.1 million last year.

This, of course, is at odds with the widespread reports on massive numbers of immigrants crossing the southern border and is only a little over a third of the 3.2 million encounters reported in 2023 by Customs and Border Protection. It is also at odds with a recent Congressional Budget Office report that estimated the net immigration for last year was 3.3 million and that population growth was 1.2%, or about 4 million net increase. When you have one government agency’s estimate that is 300% of another agency’s estimate, it is a pretty clear indication that there is a lot of uncertainty and that we have poor data.

It is clearly not accurate to equate every CBP encounter as a new resident in the US. As illegal crossings have ramped up so have DHS’s repatriations and expulsions. This DHS 2022 report showed repatriations and expulsions dramatically ramped up beginning in the second half of 2020. According to the latest data released by DHS, its repatriations have been averaging a little over 100,000 per month, although that has been falling since the expiration of Title 42 last year.1

Also, a single person can be “encountered” on multiple occasions and some immigrants simply decide they want to go home and leave the country voluntarily. However, on the other side of the ledger, the CBO has estimated that about 860,000 immigrants entered the country last year without encountering a border agent (aka “got-aways”).

The bottom line is that we do not know exactly how much immigration is currently affecting the total population. My guess is that it is somewhere between the Census Bureau’s 1.1 million and CBO’s 3.3 million.

Interestingly, the CBO report, which includes demographic projections to 2054, assumes that immigration levels will fall to the historic levels of about 1 million immigrants per year after 2024. It also projects that natural population will go negative in about ten years and will stay negative indefinitely. This will cause population growth to fall to about .3% by the end of their forecast period. Without immigration, the US population would be falling by about .2% annually.

While declining population will certainly bring some benefits, it will also come with some challenges. More on that soon.


Note 1 - Title 42 was a special provision that allowed expedited repatriations during the pandemic.

back to blogs

Related Blogs

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.


Get Bill King's blog delivered to your inbox!