Friday, May 11, 2007

Canada and the USA: Demographically Different?

Guest Post by Scott Peterson

According to's 2006 World Population Data Sheet Canada's population as of mid-2006 was 32.6 million while that of the USA was 299.1 million. The same document shows that the rate of natural increase in population for the two countries is 0.3 percent per year for Canada and 0.6 per year for the USA. So absent immigration the USA is expected to increase its population twice as fast as Canada on a percentage basis alone. When you take into account the base population number, we should expect to see Canada's population increase absent immigration by 97,800 persons whereas with the same criteria the US population should increase by 1,794,600 persons. A figure which is 18 times greater than the Canadian increase.

As per the PRB report Canada's net migration is 7 persons per 100,000 while the US number is 3 persons per 1,000. Again, when one takes into account the relative base populations that translates into expected in-migration for Canada of 228,000 persons versus expected in-migration for the US of 897,300 persons. The ratio in favor of the US is a shade under 4 to 1.

Finally, when we take a look at PRB's projections for the two countries' populations for the year 2025, Canada's is expected to be 37.6 million persons while the USA's population is expected to by 349.4 million persons. That translates to an increase in the US population of 50.3 million persons versus an increase in the Canadian population of 5.0 million persons. Remarkably, the US will increase in population to 2025 by significantly more than the entire population of Canada today! Plus, the total increase for the USA is expected to be 10 times that of Canada!

The answer to the title of this post is that one can categorically state that Canada and the US have radically different demographic situations. What then, are the implications of this difference? I suspect that Canadians who are aware of these facts must be somewhat uneasy about the relationship between Canada and the US. Living next to a country that dwarfs yours by most criteria means that a careful balance in relations must be managed. On the other hand, US growth represents export opportunities for Canadian businesses and Canadian economic policy ought to steer toward export-oriented industries. Of course, just about every other country in the world is dependent on exports to the US for economic growth, so this could be problematic for Canada.

One remaining set of facts from the PRB report concerns the geographical size of the two countries; Canada at an area of 3,849,670 square miles is larger than the USA at 3,717,796 square miles. If immigrants were seeking land, it would seem that Canada would be the place to go, but the global trend toward urbanization negates this seeming advantage to Canada. I believe climatic factors weigh against Canada when it comes to where immigrants choose to seek a new country, as well. It seems that systems for managing heat are preferred to systems for managing cold as the growth of southern-tier US states has been radically higher than any other part of the US or any Canadian province.


Colin Reid said...

Demographically speaking, Canada and the US are radically different in scale. However:

1. You talk about how much the US will grow in absolute terms. But is the ratio Americans:Canadians expected to change much over the next few years, or is it staying at a little under 10:1? (By comparison, the ratio Americans:Europeans is likely to shift rapidly in favour of Americans, which may well have political consequences.)

2. How do different parts of Canada compare to different parts of the US? There may well be parts of the US that resemble Canada demographically more than they do the US taken as a whole. Culturally at least I get the impression that BC is pretty similar to coastal Washington and Oregon, for example.

Also, the climate point is interesting, but I think its effect is indirect: a significant part of US immigrants end up working in agriculture, and the US agriculture industry is far bigger than the Canadian one despite the abundance of land. This is partly down to climate of course. But I think an even simpler explanation is that the US south borders on a large and relatively poor country, whereas Canada does not.

Also, you note that per head, Canada receives a lot more immigration than the US. I think this is the more relevant measure, as it's generally population and economic power that determine a country's capacity to absorb immigrants, not its surface area. 7 per 1000 is already pretty rapid by current standards.

S.M. Stirling said...

The differences between Canada and the US shrink somewhat if you:

a) subtract Quebec, and

b) compare the Canadian provinces to the US states directly south of them.

That is to say, Saskatchewan is much more similar to North Dakota than Canada is to the US.

The fastest-growing parts of the US are in the south and southwest.

Randy said...


I made a post on the subject last July

I speculated that the extent of American-Canadian divergence might be an after-effect of Canada's traditionally greater conservatism, that lower TFRs on the Canadian side of the border reflect the recency of the wholesale change in Canadian mores and gender roles.


They shrink somewhat if Québec is excluded, but not that much. Ontario's TFR is comparable to that of Québec, while Atlantic Canadian and British Columbian TFRs are substantially below Québec. Québec seems to be about average.

Agreed that there's a certain amount of cross-border similarity, but not that much--British Columbia and Washington State are quite distinct, for instance.

Colin Reid said...

Randy: ah yes, I remember the post-conservative fertility crash argument as given in that post. It's certainly worth investigating, though 'rate of societal transformation' is rather hard to measure.

As for comparing US and Canadian culture, it seems to me that American 'small town' culture is like nothing you'll find in Canada (except maybe Alberta), or for that matter almost anywhere in Europe, and this is true regardless of which state you look at. But US cities are very different to the surrounding countryside, and some of them ought to have a considerable amount in common with Canadian ones. Obviously I'm thinking of places like Seattle or Boston here, rather than Dallas or Miami. Any idea what urban fertility rates are like in northern US states?

S.M. Stirling said...

"Obviously I'm thinking of places like Seattle or Boston here, rather than Dallas or Miami."

-- TFR's are notably low in many coastal cities.

But then, those cities have been becoming steadily less demographically significant. Their populations are either falling or expanding much less rapidly than the national average.

The 'edge cities' and the exurbs are the fast-growing areas, and also the ones with the higher fertility rates.

Oddly, there tends to be a definite correlation between political alignment and fertility in the US too -- though I wouldn't make too much of that.

There's a correlation between low fertility globally and the presence of a lot of olive trees, too. Post hoc propter ergo hoc.

Scott said...

In response to your first question, according to's projections, the population ration of Americans to Canadians is in fact expected to remain at that 10:1 ratio through 2050. The rate of natural increase in population of Canada is expected to be about half that of the US, which is offset by the number of immigrants per 100,000 in Canada being about double that of the US over the same time period. So these two factors offset each other, resulting in stability in the population ratio.

My impression of Alberta (having visited Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the Cardston area) is that it is pretty similar to the Rocky Mountain region of the US. Also, it seems to me that the Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor "corridor" is a smaller scale analog of the Boston-Washington DC megalopolis on the US east coast.

Anonymous said...

Couple of points/questions

It is assumed that Canada will forever retain its current geographic identity. I'm not so sure. I would not be surprised to see some of the Western provinces leave to join the US before mid-century (just as I would expect certain states in northern Mexico, and perhaps Cuba to also become American states).

Muslim integration will be key to Canada's future. Certain parts of Ontario, for example, will become overwhelmingly Muslim. Will these areas push for political and legal autonomy? Will this be a peaceful process? Will Canada fracture as a result?

Randy said...


Um, a cite for the Muslim takeover of parts of Ontario, please? How is a minority that's strongly fragmented along lines of ideology, nationality, ethnicity, and sect going to take over parts of a juridically unified province?

Colin Reid said...

I must admit, when I think of Muslims in Canada the first thing that comes to mind is 'Little Mosque on the Prairie'. But seriously, how are Muslims in Canada distributed in terms of economic status? Is it something like the US, where Muslims (if you exclude African-American converts to Islam) tend to be middle-class and well-educated, or like say the Netherlands, where Muslim groups are disproportionately found amongst the poor and marginalised? This could have a big impact on the politics involved, though given its current multiculturalism, I doubt Canadian policy is likely to suddenly flip to Dutch levels of paranoia any time soon.