Is the US Overpopulated?

This morning CNN had a story that people are feeling the pressure of the recent increase in the US population. I presume this is because the population is about to reach 300 million. (Fourth largest nation in the world!)

OK, as a Libertarian, I like people. I really do not think there are too many people anywhere. (There is too much poverty in a lot of places, but that is another problem.)

Besides, look at Europe where births are below the replacement rate. A growing population is a problem, but shrinking one is much, much worse.

So, Americans, is the US overpopulated? What are the symptoms you experience? Where do you see it? Why not move to Wyoming? Would you like to see steps to limit the US populations?

See this thread.

The U.S. has the third largest population in the world. Indonesia is fourth.

For comparative purposes, my state - Minnesota covers about the same area as Great Britain yet there are “only” 5 million people here. Not that I would ever care to see 59 million people here, but it goes to show we could stuff a lot more folks in here if we had to. There would be big environmental costs to this of course, but it could be done.

I’m not so sure that a shrinking population is much worse.

For comparative purposes, we have about 8 million people here in NYC crammed into 321 square miles. 1.5 million living in the 25 square miles of Manhattan.

At the population density of Manhattan, you could fit all of the United States into Connecticut (5,549 square miles), with some space left over.

America overpopulated? No.

It just feels like it because metro areas and the surrounding cities are currently the most popular places to live.
All it takes is a drive into rural Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, Nebraska, Indiana, etc. to see how much open space there is.
Take a ride in a plane and look down. You don’t see houses and buildings butted up against eachother from coast to coast. Most of America is rural. But nobody really cares to live out in the sticks anymore.

Yeah, I sort of thought CNN was overreacting to something or another. We can say it is not a general feeling, agreed?

It’s hard to say. Where I live, complaints about traffic congestion and urban sprawl are chronic. But it’s hard to say that this is a matter of over-population per se, so much as unrealistic expectations and an infrastructure that doesn’t keep up with the population.

People want to live where there’s a dense enough population to support a lot of professional jobs, but they also want oodles of space and a big yard for their kids to play in. This in turn requires people to spread out and drive to everything, but they still want open spaces, non-congested roads, and access to mass transit.

These goals are mutually exclusive, so you spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, and the knee-jerk reaction is, “There are too many people living here.” But nobody ever volunteers to move away.

I don’t know that it is or is not a “general” feeling. It probably depends on whether you have always lived in a city or inner suburb and notice no change in your life (since the population density in your neighborhood has not changed in 40 years) or whether you are in one of the outer suburbs or exurbia watching the metropolitan area encroach on your life or whether you have had to become accustomed to one-hour or two-hour (each way) commutes to work as traffic has overloaded freeways designed for 1950s traffic and jury-rigged to handle 1970s traffic.

Where I was born in Royal Oak MI, the neighborhood has hardly changed in over 50 years, “suffering” the addition of one (12-unit) apartment house to replace two older homes and a vacant lot. Where I grew up in Rochester, MI, the orchard across the road from my subdivision (we were on the early wave of suburban expansion) has been replaced by condos and the fields and farms (both dairy and meat cattle) past which I biked as a kid were replaced by housing tracts and condos over 20 years ago and Avon Township incorporated as Rochester Hills.
My In-laws are from Howell, MI and in the 23 years we’ve been married, I have seen that town with 1 1/2 supermarkets surrounded by active farms be replaced by four major shopping centers (the original WalMart had to sell its original building and build a much larger outlet in the center across the highway because they did not have the floor space to hold what they could sell), and houses on paved roads out where trhe gravel raods had been impenetrable in the Spring rains just a few years ago.
In the southern tier of Geauga County, where I live, the opening of a freeway has changed the township closest to metro Cleveland from a place with two family operated pizza outlets, one supermarket in a small shopping center, a K-Mart, and a Big Wheel to a place with two major supermarkets, nine pizza outlets (four of them chains), three small shopping centers and two huge shopping centers (Wal
Mart, Target, Home Depot, Circuit City, Kohl’s, etc.), three medical clinics, two additional (large) schools–one of which has already been expanded–and housing developments on every corner–and the freeway only opened in 1993.

I don’t think that the country is overcrowded, but we are sure sprawling across a lot of countryside.

See this thread: The U.S. could have 1.5 billion population

I think it depends on where you are at…and where you have been in the country. In my own experience, the folks who generally complain that the US is becoming overpopulated are either on the east Coast in one of the highly populated states/regions, or in California…and don’t travel much. Anyone who has ever actually TRAVELED in the US, especially in the South West or up north around the Canadian border realizes that the US is actually not that densely populated in large swaths of the country. If you live in New York, Boston, DC, Phily, LA, etc…well, things look a lot different.

Its why I don’t live in any of those places (anymore). :slight_smile:


I think how much of a problem it is depends on your lifestyle. xtisme seems to have been happy to move away from whatever big city he used to live in, but I’d have more of a problem with it. In general I consider overpopulation a serious issue that must be dealt with, and believe that people tend to be deceived by the huge geographic size of the United States. Because so much of the West is dry, I don’t think we can carry the same population density that Europe does; it takes more than open space to support a population.

Having said that, I have to admit I always got a chuckle out of those Volvo commercials where they said the company was unapologetic about its contribution to the overpopulation problem, due to the lifesaving safety features in their cars.

And then, even if most people did want to live in the sticks, the economy and job market are simply not structured in a way that would make that possible.

With that last item the irony almost attains the surreal. When it comes to transit, everybody would like to live two blocks from the train station, but they don’t want the railroad to go through their neighborhood.

…Although with the advent of telecommuting, it is becoming more feasible. I am a telecommuter myself, and spend about half of my time living out in “the sticks.”

But the cities are always going to be stuffed with people. If we had a lower overall population, it would just mean fewer cities or smaller cities, but the population density in those cities is going to be very high regardless.

Well, I didn’t exactly move onto a mountaintop somewhere and live in a cave you know? :slight_smile: Alburquerque is a fair sized city…and it has everything I need services wise (I don’t actually live in Alburquerque, but close). However, the population is much less densely packed here than in those other cities I mentioned (I lived in ALL of them btw at one time or another…and a few more I didn’t name).

Very true…as cities like Phoenix are finding out (another city I lived in and don’t have any desire to go back too). There are huge swaths of land out here in the south west that are just not usable by any kind of large population.

That said, I think there is still plenty of open spaces in the country in more habitable places…especially in the North and North West. Lots of habitable places in the Rockies too. So no…I don’t think the US is by any means overpopulated at this time. Its just densely populated in selected areas.

Not like we are growing all THAT much these days either. Immigration is probably down somewhat, what with everyone hating America these days ( :wink: ), and I think our internal birthrate is only a bit above replacement level.


I believe that, yes, the U.S. is overpopulated, and, furthermore, that the entire planet is overpopulated.

While there may not be a coast-to-coast span of unbroken development, would that really be the only indicator that there might be too many people?

Just because there are inhabitable places that don’t yet have houses on them doesn’t mean they should, and looking at unsettled land as nothing but future room to expand is just rationalization to avoid admitting that maybe there might be too many people around.

Maybe I’m just a heartless jerk, but as a species we diverted natural selection long ago, and now people that should not be here are allowed to burden everyone else and I believe that that, directly or indirectly, contributes to many social issues from poverty to overfull landfills.

It is not the shrinking population that is a catastrophe, but the aging population and demographic nightmare that is causing dislocation – especially in Europe which has built an old age pension system that becomes problematic to maintain as fewer and fewer younger workers have to support more and more older workers.

As to the OP, no it is not a general feeling as far as what I hear that the U.S. is overpopulated.

There are two exceptions that I can think of:

Almost all the growth in the American population is due to immigration - the majority of that is Hispanic. It feels like we have reached a cultural tipping point in this country and that this is now an “issue” for many people - in a way that it really wasn’t a few years ago. To the extent that can be tied to a feeling of “overpopulation” (i.e. “they are clogging ourschools/roads/hospital/jobs”) in that case then I think there is a feeling of ‘overpopulation’

Traffic. (i.e. “There are too many people on the roads”) to the extent that can be tied to “overpopulation” in that case then I think there is a feeling of ‘overpopulation’

To most folks these are two issues separate from overpopulation - however I think if framed in context you would get ~50% of Americans to agree that we have an “overpopulation” problem

I’m one of those people. My mother and I would have died when I was born if not for medical intervention. Perhaps I’m just prejudiced, but I don’t think we should look to natural selection to be deciding who should and should not live. That’s why we have medicine, so something like slightly malformed pelvis doesn’t take away two people who might have something to contribute to society.

That said, I do think that there are more people having children than should be. Impoverished and underaged people shouldn’t be having kids, (nor should some irresponsible adults,) but I’m not about to say there should be laws to that effect.