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Guess who's dying out now? Americans. According to Jonathan Last's What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster (Encounter, £15.99), we Yanks are an endangered species. Numerical decline would have been upon us even sooner without our leaky borders: the total fertility rate "for native-born American women was 2.0 in 2011; the TFR for foreign-born women was 2.6 . . . [T]he natives would be depopulating themselves into oblivion without the help of immigrants."

OK, hold it. A replacement-rate TFR is 2.1. So claiming that a native-born TFR of 2.0 leads to "depopulating yourself into oblivion" is arithmetically absurd. Having conspicuously boned up on demography, Last knows full well that he's flogging an unfounded, sensationalist premise.

True, by 2012 America's TFR dipped to 1.94, helping to paint this terrifying future of the Lonely American. Yet in 2007, US fertility was a spot-on 2.1. Need I mention what happened in 2008? Unemployed or financially insecure people put off having children. American fertility plummeted during the Depression and sagged during the 1970s oil crisis, only to recover. Should the economy improve, both fertility and immigration could easily return to pre-recession levels.

Let's consult other sources. With America's population now 312 million, the UN projects it will grow to 438 million in 2050, and to 478 million by 2100. This is disappearing? Foreseeing somewhat fewer (423 million) Americans in 2050, the respected Population Reference Bureau shies from making predictions for 2100. Long-term demographic projections are whimsical confections born of unknowable, arbitrary inputs. In 2008, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech estimated we'll have one billion Americans by 2100 — merely by assuming that the fertility rate at the time remained constant, while immigration and longevity continued to rise. The farther into the future the forecast, the more equations can be manipulated to spit out whatever numbers support a preconceived theory.

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