Human Resources

In 1900 the United States had a population of 76 million. By 1960 the population had more than doubled, reaching 179 million.1)  The western states grew most, about four times the national average.2)  The balance of birth and death, immigration and emigration was lately such that the American population showed an increment of about 2 million per year in the 1940’s and almost 3 million per year in the 1950’s.3)  This is a remarkably high rate for a modern society, so high that it virtually keeps up with the so-called population explosion in less developed countries. At present, 6 per cent of the world’s population lives in the United States. The best projections of future population figures indicate that America north of Mexico will have nearly the same share of world population in 1975 as it had in 1950.4)

The increase in population has become more and more due to the balance of birth and death, and less and less due to the balance of immigration and emigration. In the first decade of this century 39 per cent of the population increase resulted from an excess of arriving immigrants over departing ones, while in the fifties only ten per cent of the increase was accounted for by immigrants.5)  In the seventy years from 1880 to 1950, the proportion of foreign-born in America was decreased by half, from 13.1 to 6.7 per cent, 6)  and a further drop in this proportion can be expected over the next few decades if the present pattern of immigration prevails.

Expectation of life has increased by more than 20 years this century,7)  and death rates have been cut in half. It is significant that the crude death rate for Negroes which used to be considerably higher than for whites is now almost the same as that of whites.8)  Roughly, one out of every ten Americans is a Negro, and one out of 200 is an Oriental, or belongs to another non-white race. The proportion of non-whites declined from 13 per cent in 1800 to 10 per cent in 1950, but can now be expected to rise again, reflecting their higher birth rates. Present rates indicate that the non-white population will double in a generation, while the white population will take almost a generation and a half to double.9)

American women outnumber men by one or two per hundred, except in the West, where there is still a faint echo of the pioneering of men; however, even there the figure dropped from 153 men per 100 women in 1880 to 102 per 100 in 1 950.10) The marriage rate made a remarkable jump right after World War II to an all-time high of 16.2 marriages per 1000 persons, but has since tapered off to rates below 10 marriages a year per 1000 persons.11) This rate nevertheless is above the levels customary in all but a few foreign countries.12) The divorce rate has also declined since the war; in 1946 there were 18.2 divorces per 1000 existing marriages, in 1956 there were about half this number, or 9.3.13) Less than half of all divorce decrees involve children.14) The divorces do not normally reflect any aversion to marriage as such; for example, over 98 per cent of those divorced before age 30 remarry; most of them within two or three years.15)

Fewer women in the United States remain single throughout childbearing age than in any Western country,16) a fact that goes a long way toward explaining the growth rate of the American population. At the same time, childlessness, which in 1890 was at the level of 8 per cent of all ever-married women past child-bearing age, had risen to 19 per cent by 1952. The figures for the younger age-groups forecast that the present generation of women of child-bearing age has reversed the trend: only one out of ten of them is likely to go through married life without a child.17) Women who were beyond child-bearing age in 1957 had given birth, on the average, to 2.80 children. Catholic women had had an average of 3.06 children, Protestant, 2.75, and Jewish, 2.22 children. However, one should not generalize about the Protestants: the Baptists had borne more children than the Catholics, and the Presbyterians fewer children than the Jews.18) In general, the knowledge of birth control has been used to concentrate births in the years when women are in their (early) twenties. The number of births per 1000 white women in their twenties increased about 20 per cent between 1950 and 1955, while the increase for other childbearing ages averaged about half this figure.19)

At the age when young people reach their majority half of them are already married. One can only speculate why the age at marriage is so low in the United States. Perhaps the combination of strong emphasis on sex in mass-media and strict social norms that frown on pre-marital sexual experimentation puts many teen-agers and young adults in a tense situation of cross-pressure which an early marriage resolves. To this, one must add the factor of the nation’s prosperity which enables marrying youngsters to get a good start on a home of their own through financial help from their parents. At any rate, the early marriages, the concentration of the child bearing period, and the longer life span have brought about other shifts. A comparison of the median age of husband and wife at the turning points of their family cycles in 1890 and 1950 gives a picture of the long-term trends:

(1) age at marriage declines from 26.1 to 22.8 for men and 22.0 to 20.1 for women,
(2) age at the birth of the last child declines from 36.0 to 28.8 for husbands, and 31.9 to 26.1 for women,
(3) the age of the parents at the wedding of their last child declines by 9 years and takes place when the father is 50.3 and the mother is 47.6,
(4) the age to which the couple survives jointly increases from 57.4 years to 64.1 years for the husband and from 53.3 to 61.4 for wives, finally
(5) the death of the surviving spouse occurs later, a widower died at the median age of 64.4 in 1890 and at 71.6 in 1950, a widow at 67.7 in 1890 and 77.2 in 1950. 20)

At the same time the size of the median household declined from 4.5 persons to 3.1 persons.21)  The 1960 Census has not yet reported the detailed figures that make it possible to calculate the latest details of all these trends, but except for the decline in household size, the trends are likely to still be with us.

The figures for 1960 that are available tend to suggest that we are now in a slight decline of marriage and birth rates. The multitude of children born after World War II are now in increasing number reaching their teens. The realization that a teenager costs the parents about twice as much as a younger child is perhaps becoming more vivid in the communities of the nation, and this has a sobering influence on family planning, also among newly formed families.

Of children already born, we can safely estimate that those of high school age will double in the 1960’s. Those born in the late 1950’s will find that in 1980, as young adults age 20 to 24, there will be almost twice as many in their age group as there were in that of their parents.22) Schools, house builders, labor markets, draft boards, et cetera will have to face this, as will parents who, according to the prevailing pattern, sponsor to a large extent, in financial and other ways, the entries of young adults into colleges, jobs, and marriages.

In considering data on the growth of the population of the United States, it is important to remember that size of population alone is not in itself a reliable indication of what a society can or cannot do. We have already noted that growth may be located primarily in the youngest and the oldest age group, while the productive ages remain more stationary.23)  More important, the potential of a society always includes its use of non-human sources of energy. For example, in 1958 the average American used per year 56 times as much non-human energy – from sources such as petroleum, coal, natural gas, and electricity – as the average person in India, and two and a half times as much as the average person in the Soviet Union.24)   (In computing these figures we have not counted the use of non-human sources of energy for military destruction, which has recently expanded beyond the limits of the human imagination; newspaper reports indicate that the destructive power of a single hydrogen bomb in 1960 exceeds the combined destructive power of all shells and bombs used in World War I and II.) Since in America the production of most goods and services require the use of non-human energy, statistics on the amount consumed constitute one of the better indicators of the state of our economy. The recent developments of electronic data processing and calculation have led to greater use of non-human sources of energy in the administration of men and in the pursuit of knowledge. The manufacture of these devices represented the fastest-growing American industry during the 1950’s. The social consequences of the use of electronic equipment extend far beyond the displacement of a large, but unknown, number of office workers. The new method of record keeping and processing enhance an administrator’s ability to keep track of his subordinates’ actions and hold them accountable for what they have done. The consequence in any private or public government seems to be the opportunity for more central planning and less individual privacy and discretion. In science, the new electronic methods of calculation will probably give us better means for prediction of events affected by a large multitude of factors, e.g., health, weather, and social processes. The invention of the high-speed electronic calculator may well do to decision making and intellectual labor what the invention of the steam engine once did for manual labor.

The extensive use of non-human energy has made American life comfortable and easy and has probably had an adverse effect on the physical stamina of the population. Exact figures are hard to find and interpret here, but, on balance, popular active participation in sports is not widespread.25)  Tests reported by the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation indicate that American youth is not quite as physically fit as youth in some European countries. A complex societal effort, such as that of the armed services in World War II, could not use more than about half of the eligible men. Some 4.4 million were deferred and 5.7 million men, or a quarter of the men considered for Army service during World War II, were rejected after their induction examination, and an additional 2.5 million were later separated from service, 13 per cent of whom had physical disabilities and 22 per cent psychiatric disabilities.26)

The preservation of the human resources and physical health nevertheless ranks high in the American scale of values, as is shown by the large number of health services. The United States had 132 active physicians per 100,000 persons in 1955. This is actually a decline from 155 per 100,000 in 1900. However, the need of the nation for more physicians has been balanced to a considerable extent by new methods of treatment, better sanitation, and more hospitals, and, above all, by the growth of auxiliary health professions. Thus, the number of nurses grew from 55 to 258 per 100,000 population in the period from 1910 to 1950, and nursing is now the third largest profession, outnumbered only by teaching and engineering.27)  For 1958, the American Hospital Association reported 24 million admissions in its 6,818 hospitals, that is, about one admission per seven persons.28) The country has over a million and a half hospital beds in virtually continuous use, the largest number being occupied by mentally ill patients.

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1) Infra, Table 2

2) Infra, Table 3

3) Infra, Table 2

4) Infra, Table 1

5) Infra, Table 4. In the early winter 1960-1961 some 1600 Cuban refugees arrived every week in Miami, while in the last few years the total net arrivals from all nations to the United States has been around 5600 a week.

6) Infra, Table 8

7) Infra, Table 9

8) Infra, Table 10

9) Infra, Table 26

10) See Infra, Table 6 for proportion of men and women in 1900 and 1959; and Warren S. Thompson, Population Problems, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1953, p. 92 for regional differences in the United States and some international comparisons.

11) Infra, Table 17

12) Infra, Table 18

13) Infra, Table 19

14) Infra, Table 20

15) Infra, Table 21

16) Infra, Table 15

17) Paul C. Glick, American Families, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1957, p. 66.

18) Infra, Table 25

19) Infra Table 23

20) Infra, Table 16

21) Infra, Table 22

22) Infra, Table 5

23) Cf. Infra, Tables 5, 6 and 7

24) United Nations, World Energy Supplies 1955-1958, Statistical Papers, Series J, no. 3, United Nations, New York, 1960, pp. 7, 25, and 35.

25) In March 1940, a national sample was asked, "Which of the following games have you played in the last years?", and 12 per cent named golf, and 13 per cent tennis. See Hadley Cantril and Mildred Strunk, Public Opinion 1935-46, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1951, p. 811.

26) Infra, Table 13

27) Infra, Table 11

28) Infra, Table 12