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Two birthdays, two futures, two metrics

View Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks, from the Queens borough of New York, NY.

View Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks, from the Queens borough of New York, NY.


The United States and Canada just wrapped up their respective national birthdays, with Canada turning 156 and the US hitting the ripe old age of 247. The countries share the world’s longest undefended land border and rack up nearly $800 billion a year in trade of goods and services. But how do they both stack up on crucial indicators that shine a light on quality-of-life issues and the health of their democracies?

Population growth and immigration: The Congressional Budget Office projects the US population – currently at 336 million – will grow by 37 million over the next 30 years. Immigration will account for most of this increase, but this would still be a decline in the growth rate from a recent high of 0.8% in 2014 to 0.2% in 2053. That means the US labor force – which is predicted to grow by just over 8 million jobs by 2031 – will also slow.

Canada has a fraction of the US population – roughly 12% – and while the gap is closing, the two countries are unlikely to ever be anywhere near parity. It recently hit the 40-million mark and plans to welcome 500,000 newcomers a year by 2025. According to Statistics Canada’s high-growth projections, the world’s second-largest country by landmass would see its population hit 74 million by 2068. StatCan also expects the labor force in Canada to grow “from 19.7 million in 2017 to 22.9 million in 2036,” but the country also faces an aging population, meaning “the overall participation rate is expected to decrease … from 66% in 2017 to 63% or less in 2036.” This, in turn, can drive up healthcare and social security costs as well as labor shortages.

Trust in government: How many of these citizens trust their government? A 2022 Pew Research Center study on public trust in government from 1958-2022 finds a long-term decline in Americans’ faith in the state. Those who say they “trust government to do what is right just about always/most of the time” hit a high of 77% in 1964, during the Johnson administration. Since then it’s been on a fairly steady drift downward to today’s 20%, and the rate notably dropped as low as 10% during the Obama years. Recently, Democrats seemed to be more trusting than Republicans – 29% versus 9% last year.

Canadians, meanwhile, are more trusting. The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer finds 51% of Canadians trust the government (for comparison, Edelman found that 42% of Americans trust theirs, higher than the Pew numbers). But the Canadian numbers are down two points from last year.

Greater distrust means both governments face a tougher job engaging their electorates and affecting change.


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