I have just been looking at a 1943 report of population projections for the United States through the year 2000. This was produced by the Scripps Foundation for the National Resource Planning Board, and so reflects the best estimates of the big brains of that time. As with all such projections, this report describes several possibilities based on various assumptions with respect to fertility, mortality and immigration. Their absolute high-end projection for 2000 was just over 198 million, which turns out to be a little under 100 million short of the actual number.
Had their highest possible estimate been correct, the population of the United States would have grown by 43 percent in the second half of the twentieth century, whereas, in fact, it more than doubled. The middle-range projections predicted that the national population would grow by around 20 percent between 1945 and 2000, rising to a number just 60 percent of today’s total. Two of the twelve scenarios showed a shrinking population.
The report expected fertility to rebound from the suppressed level of the depression and war years, but did not fully anticipate the baby boom. It’s high fertility rate for white women was 2.1. It also somewhat underestimated probable declines in mortality. Its staggering and stupendous error was, of course, in its underestimation of immigration, which it described as the one factor entirely in the hands of legislators and “national policy.”