Report

Americans and Britons: Key Population Data from the Last Three U.S. and U.K. Censuses

Rebecca K. Tunstall



Findings

An analysis of key population data from the last three U.S. and U.K. censuses finds that:

  • There are almost five times as many Americans as Britons. Three of the four U.S. regions have larger populations than the entire United Kingdom, and 10 states have populations larger than any U.K. region.

  • The U.S. population grew by 13.2 percent in the 1990s, more than four times faster than the U.K.’s. Although U.K. population growth picked up slightly in the 1990s, forestalling fears of stagnation or decline, U.S. growth rates both were higher in the 1980s and accelerated rapidly in the 1990s.

  • Americans are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than Britons, and a greater proportion of them was born in other countries. Nearly one-fourth (24.9 percent) of the U.S. population described themselves as nonwhite in 2000, while only 7.9 percent of the U.K. population described themselves as from an ethnic minority in 2001. Higher proportions of foreign-born residents in the United States reflect higher recent immigration rates.

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  • Americans are slightly younger than Britons. The United States had a slightly higher proportion of residents in all age categories under 60 , with a total of 83.8 percent of U.S. residents under age 60 in 2000 compared with 79.3 percent of U.K. residents in 2001. Both nations are aging, but the United Kingdom has been aging longer. The United States stemmed the aging process with higher immigration and fertility during the 1980s and 1990s.

  • American adults are more likely to be married or divorced than Britons, and less likely to be single or widowed. Overall, 72.9 percent of Americans over age 14 had been married or divorced in 2000 compared with 69.8 percent of Britons over age 15 in 2001. Just over 54 percent of Americans were currently married compared with 50.8 percent of Britons.

  • Females make up a slightly smaller majority of the population in the United States than in the United Kingdom. The gender balance has been stable for two decades in the United Kingdom while it has fluctuated in the United States from higher immigration and a younger population.

    In sum, the United States and the United Kingdom—rich in similarities and contrasts— represent a promising topic for future comparative research and policy exchange.

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