Projections by the U.S. Census Bureau show that by 2035, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in American history.
In fact, by 2035, the bureau expects there will be 2 million more elderly in the U.S. than kids. The statistics are largely attributed to lower birth rates, immigration rates, and aging of the baby boomer generation.
The Census Bureau reports that the numbers will make an impact on policy, saying “the country could see greater demands for health care, in-home caregiving and assisted living facilities. It could also affect Social Security. We project three-and-a-half working-age adults for every older person eligible for Social Security by 2020. By 2060, that number is expected to fall to two-and-a-half working-age adults for every older person.”
Because of its immigration rates, America’s population is still expected to grow. According to William Frey of the Brookings Institution, “This is a country that should be grateful for all the immigration it’s had over the last 25 years. These projections put even more of an exclamation point on it.”
Historically, the Census Bureau says “higher fertility and more international migration have helped stave off an aging population and the country has remained younger as a result. But those trends are changing. Americans are having fewer children and the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s has yet to be repeated. Fewer babies, coupled with longer life expectancy equals a country that ages faster.”
These numbers are problematic for the sustainability of Social Security, as Social Security’s Office of Policy acknowledges. The Social Security website lists possible solutions for staving off insolvency, such as reducing retirement benefits, raising the retirement age, reforming pensions and creating “incentives to work and save.”
Older Americans will also continue to carry increasing political clout with their numbers, influencing lawmakers to sustain programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Steven Lugauer, assistant professor in the department of economics at the University of Kentucky, told The Wall Street Journal, “The share of the population that’s the working share is going to matter a lot. If it’s going to be even fewer workers than previously thought, it’s going to weigh on growth even further.”