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Aging into the 21st Century

Demography

 

Growth of the elderly population

On the basis of the middle series of the Bureau of the Census population projections released in 1996, we can anticipate a moderate increase in the elderly population until about 2010, a rapid increase for the next 20 years to 2030, and then a return to a moderate increase between 2030 and 2050 (Table 1). Similar projections prepared by the Social Security Administration (SSA) support these figures (SSA, 1995). In the early period, the elderly population is expected to increase by 17 percent, from 33.5 million in 1995 to 39.4 million in 2010. In the next period, 2010 to 2030, the population aged 65 and over is expected to grow by 75 percent to over 69 million. During the 2030 to 2050 period, the growth rate is projected to increase 14 percent, and the number of elderly is expected to increase to about 79 million. Because the growth of the elderly population in the early period is not much different from that of the population under age 65, the proportion of elderly in the population will not change significantly between now and 2010, remaining at approximately 13 percent. However, from 2010 to 2030, the growth rate of the elderly exceeds that of the population under age 65, so that the proportion of the elderly in the overall total increases sharply to 20 percent. Thereafter, at least until 2050, the age segments of the population grow rather evenly and the percentage of the elderly in the overall population remains unchanged.


Table 1 - Projections of the Population, by Age and Sex: 1995 to 2050 (Numbers in thousands. Minus sign denotes a decrease. Middle series of U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

 

BOTH SEXES SEX

AGE GROUP AND YEAR

Number

Percent of all ages

Percent increase from 1995

Male

Female

Sex Ratio1

ALL AGES

              

 

1995

262,820

x

x

128,311

134,509

95.4

2000

274,634

x

4.5

134,181

140,453

95.5

2010

297,716

x

13.3

145,584

152,132

95.7

2030

346,899

x

32.0

169,950

176,949

96.0

2050

393,931

x

49.9

193,234

200,696

96.3

55-64

              

 

1995

21,138

8.0

x

10,045

11,093

90.6

2000

23,961

8.7

13.4

11,433

12,528

91.3

2010

35,283

11.9

66.9

16,921

18,362

92.2

2030

36,348

10.5

72.0

17,441

18,907

92.2

2050

42,368

10.8

100.4

20,403

21,965

92.9

65-74

 

              

1995

18,758

7.1

x

8,337

10,421

80.0

2000

18,136

6.6

-3.3

8,180

9,956

82.2

2010

21,058

7.1

12.3

9,753

11,305

86.3

2030

37,407

10.8

99.4

17,878

19,529

91.5

2050

34,732

8.8

85.2

16,699

18,033

92.6

75-84

                 

1995

11,151

4.2

x

4,326

6,825

63.4

2000

12,316

4.5

10.4

4,938

7,378

66.9

2010

12,680

4.3

13.7

5,363

7,317

73.3

2030

23,517

6.8

110.9

10,818

12,699

85.2

2050

25,905

6.6

132.3

12,342

13,563

91.0

85+

              

 

1995

3,634

1.4

x

1,015

2,619

38.8

2000

4,259

1.6

17.2

1,228

3,031

40.5

2010

5,670

1.9

56.0

1,771

3,899

45.4

2030

8,454

2.4

132.7

3,021

5,433

55.6

2050

18,224

4.6

401.5

7,036

11,188

62.9

65+

                 

1995

33,544

12.8

x

13,678

19,866

68.9

2000

34,710

12.6

3.5

14,346

20,364

70.4

2010

39,409

13.2

17.5

16,887

22,522

75.0

2030

69,379

20.0

106.8

31,718

37,661

84.2

2050

78,859

20.0

135.1

36,076

42,783

84.3

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

1 Males per 100 females.

x = not applicable

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

The growth in the number of the oldest old (aged 85 and over) is of greater public concern. During 1995 to 2010, this population is expected to grow by 56 percent, as compared with 13 percent for the population aged 65 to 84. This means that a larger share of the elderly will be over age 85. In subsequent decades, especially between 2030 and 2050, the 85-and-over age group will grow sharply as the baby-boom cohorts age. The 85-and-over age group is expected to increase from 3.6 million in 1995 to 5.7 million in 2010 to 8.5 million in 2030, and to 18.2 million in 2050. Thus, while the expected increase from 2010 to 2030 is less than 50 percent, the increase from 2030 to 2050 is 116 percent. The cumulative growth in the 85-and-over population from 1995 to 2050 is anticipated to be more than 400 percent, and the proportion of that group in the total population is likely to increase from 1.4 percent in 1995 to 4.6 percent in 2050.

Alternative higher and lower population projections were also published by the Bureau of the Census. The basic assumptions in the Bureau of the Census projections, expressed in terms of ultimate values for fertility, mortality and immigration in 2050, are as follows:

 

Year

Component:

1995

2050

   

 

 

 
   

Low

Middle

High

Fertility (total fertility rate)

2055

1910

2245

2580

Life expectancy (at birth)

75.9

74.8

82.0

89.4

Annual net immigration

(in thousands)

820

300

820

1270

The total fertility rate represents the number of children 1,000 women would have in their lifetimes, assuming that none of the women died before the end of childbearing. Life expectancy represents the average number of years of life remaining at birth to a newborn cohort. Annual net immigration is the yearly total number of immigrants to the United States minus the number of emigrants. The "lowest" population series (that is, the series showing the lowest population numbers) is based on a combination of low fertility, low life expectancy, and low net immigration. The "highest" series (that is, the series showing the highest population numbers) is based on a combination of high fertility, high life expectancy, and high net immigration.

These series present very different outlooks on the growth of the elderly population. For example, the highest series of population projections shows a 754 percent increase in the number of persons aged 85 and over between 1995 and 2050 (Table 2). The middle series shows a 402 percent increase, and the lowest series an increase of 166 percent for that group. The proportion of the oldest old in the total population is projected to be over 4.5 percent in 2050 in the middle series, but 6.0 percent in the highest series. The number of persons aged 65 and over in the highest series grows much more rapidly than in the middle series, but the proportion of elderly in the population is about the same in the two series in all future years because of the parallel growth of the elderly and the nonelderly populations.

To understand why the elderly population will grow more slowly between 1995 and 2010 than in earlier periods, we have to consider the trend of births 65 years or more before each of these two dates. The number of births from 1910 to 1930 was much greater than the number of births from 1925 to 1945. The Depression Era babies, among the latter cohorts, are now reaching age 65, hence the number of those 65 to 74 is actually decreasing. Because of the 1946 to 1964 baby boom, we can anticipate an extremely large increase in the number of people aged 65 and over, and especially aged 65 to 74, after 2010. The decline in death rates, especially at the older ages, is also contributing to the increase in the current number of elderly, and it is assumed that this trend will continue. Death rates of people in the older age ranges began to plunge in the late 1960's and are anticipated to continue to decline, albeit at a slower pace than in recent decades.

To understand the rapid growth of the oldest-old population between 1995 and 2010, we have to consider demographic events that occurred between 1900 and 1925 and later. The number of births increased rapidly from 1900-1910 (1910 being the year the youngest of those aged 85 and over in 1995 were born) to 1915-1925. A high immigration rate contributed greatly to the number of births in this period. However, the number of births from 1915 to 1925 (the years of the birth cohort that will be 85 years or over in 2010) greatly exceeded the number born from 1900 to 1910, as a result of the rapid growth of the population. Immigration in this and previous decades contributed substantially to the number of births in 1915 to 1925, although the volume of immigration had fallen off sharply as compared with the volume of immigration affecting the 1900 to 1910 cohorts. However, the later cohorts benefited from lower death rates as they grew older.

Changes in the proportion of elderly in the total population have a different causal basis. The projections of a very high and increasing proportion of elderly from 2010 to 2030 are accounted for by three factors: (1) declining and low fertility in the past and the prospect of continuing low fertility up to 2030 (and beyond); (2) maturing of the baby-boom cohorts; and (3) sharp declines in mortality at the adult and older ages in the recent past and the prospect of continuing low mortality up to 2030 (and beyond). Once the baby-boom influx is over (i.e., has completely passed age 65) in 2030, the proportion of elderly in the total population stabilizes.

Table 2 - Projections of the Percentage Increase in Population, by Age: 1995 to 2010, 1995 to 2030, 1995 to 2050 (Minus sign denotes a decrease. Projections are based on the lowest, middle, and highest population series of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

AGE AND PERIOD

LOWEST POPULATION

MIDDLE POPULATION

HIGHEST POPULATION

ALL AGES

  

 

 

1995-2010

7.1

13.3

19.7

1995-2030

10.8

32.0

54.1

1995-2050

7.5

49.9

97.4

UNDER 65

 

     

1995-2010

6.6

12.7

19.0

1995-2030

1.3

21.0

42.1

1995-2050

-1.2

37.4

81.2

65+

     

 

1995-2010

10.8

17.5

24.2

1995-2030

75.6

106.8

136.4

1995-2050

66.8

135.1

208.3

75+

 

 

 

1995-2010

14.5

24.1

35.0

1995-2030

71.8

116.2

164.0

1995-2050

91.1

198.5

326.8

85+

 

 

 

1995-2010

37.9

56.0

79.1

1995-2030

59.1

132.7

235.1

1995-2050

165.6

401.5

754.2

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

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Race groups and Hispanics

The figures for all race groups combined tend to reflect mainly the changes in the white elderly population. Blacks, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics will share in the main trends described, but to a more intensive degree. Between 2010 and 2030, the size of these racial/ethnic groups will increase dramatically. Similarly, dramatic increases are projected between 2030 and 2050 for the 85-and-over age group (Tables 3 and 4a). The rates of growth for Asian and Pacific Islanders (the main component of the "other races" group) and Hispanics far exceed those for whites in all periods. In addition to the role of higher fertility rates, particularly among Hispanics, and lower mortality for both Asian and Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, immigration is a major factor in the growth of these groups. For blacks, higher fertility explains the higher growth rate since net immigration is less important and mortality is higher than for whites.

As a result of these projected differences in growth rates, the racial and ethnic composition of the elderly population will change profoundly in the next 50 years. As shown in Table 4b, Hispanics are expected to constitute 17.5 percent of the elderly population in 2050, as compared with the 4.5 percent estimated for 1995. Furthermore, during this time period, the proportion of elderly within the Hispanic population will increase from approximately 6 percent to a little more than 14 percent. The proportions of blacks and "other races" in the elderly population are also expected to increase. In particular, the proportion of "other races" will more than triple in this period. Conversely, the proportion of whites in the elderly population will decrease, from 90 to 82 percent. If we calculate the percentages for the non-Hispanic white population, the shift is even greater, from 85 to 66 percent, meaning that in 2050 about one-third of the elderly population would be black, Hispanic, or in the "other races" category.

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Gender balance

Most elderly, and especially the older aged, are women. Overall, the elderly population in 1995 included 45 percent more women than men, and the older the age group, the lower the proportion of men in the group (Table 1). For example, there are 158 percent more women than men aged 85 years and over in 1995. The projected population imbalance between the sexes is less than it would otherwise be over the next several decades because of an assumption of converging mortality rates. Even so, it is projected that in 2050 women aged 85 and over will outnumber men aged 85 and over by more than 4 million, or nearly 60 percent, and women will make up 61 percent of the population ages 85 and over. As long as the mortality of men, in general, exceeds that of women, women will outnumber men among the elderly, especially among the oldest-old age group.

Table 3 - Projections of the Total and Elderly Populations, by Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050 (Numbers in thousands. Middle series of U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

AGE AND YEAR

WHITE BLACK OTHER RACES1 HISPANIC ORIGIN2

ALL AGES

           

1995

218,078 33,144 11,598 26,936

2000

225,533 35,454 13,647 31,365

2010

239,588 40,110 18,019 41,139

2030

269,046 50,001 27,852 65,571

2050

294,614 60,592 38,723 96,508

65+

           

1995

30,057 2,718 769 1,505

2000

30,842 2,883 984 1,871

2010

34,416 3,430 1,561 2,847

2030

58,767 6,919 3,692 7,782

2050

64,427 8,613 5,819 13,770

75+

           

1995

13,417 1,104 264 557

2000

14,998 1,208 370 751

2010

16,316 1,397 638 1,242

2030

27,650 2,663 1,659 3,361

2050

36,890 4,162 3,074 7,760

85+

           

1995

3,307 275 52 131

2000

3,865 317 77 183

2010

5,108 396 166 346

2030

7,327 638 489 988

2050

15,443 1,562 1,218 3,244

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

1Other races category includes Asian and Pacific Islanders and American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts.

2Hispanics may be of any race.

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

Table 4a - Projections of the Percentage Increase in Population, by Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050 (Middle series of U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

AGE AND PERIOD

WHITE

BLACK

OTHER RACES1

HISPANIC ORIGIN2

ALL AGES

       

1995-2010

9.9

21.0

55.4

52.7

1995-2030

24.4

50.9

140.1

143.4

1995-2050

35.1

82.8

233.9

258.3

65+

 

 

 

 

1995-2010

14.5

26.2

103.0

89.2

1995-2030

95.5

154.6

380.1

417.1

1995-2050

114.3

216.9

656.7

815.0

75+

 

 

 

 

1995-2010

21.6

26.5

141.7

122.6

1995-2030

106.1

141.3

528.4

503.2

1995-2050

174.9

276.9

1064.4

1292.6

85+

   

 

 

1995-2010

54.4

44.0

219.2

163.4

1995-2030

121.5

132.0

840.4

654.2

1995-2050

366.8

468.0

2242.3

2377.1

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

1Other races category includes Asian and Pacific Islanders and American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts.

2Hispanics may be of any race.

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

Table 4b - Projections of the Percentage of Persons 65 Years and Over in the Total Population, by Age, for Race Groups and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050 (Middle series of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

 

PERCENT OF ALL AGES1

PERCENT BY RACE2

AGE AND YEAR

White

Black

Other Races

Hispanic Origin3

White

Black

Other Races

Hispanic Origin

65+

 

             

1995

13.8

8.2

6.6

5.6

89.6

8.1

2.3

4.5

2000

13.7

8.1

7.2

6.0

88.9

8.3

2.8

5.4

2010

14.4

8.6

8.7

6.9

87.3

8.7

4.0

7.2

2050

21.9

14.2

15.0

14.3

81.7

10.9

7.4

17.5

75+

             

 

1995

6.2

3.3

2.3

2.1

90.7

7.5

1.8

3.8

2000

6.7

3.4

2.7

2.4

90.4

7.3

2.3

4.5

2010

6.8

3.5

3.5

3.0

88.9

7.6

3.5

6.8

2050

12.5

6.9

7.9

8.0

83.6

9.4

7.0

17.6

85+

             

 

1995

1.5

0.8

0.4

.5

91.0

7.6

1.4

3.6

2000

1.7

0.9

0.6

.6

90.7

7.4

1.8

4.3

2010

2.1

1.0

0.9

.8

90.1

7.0

2.9

6.1

2050

5.2

2.6

3.1

3.4

84.7

8.6

6.7

17.8

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

1Represents the percent of the age group in the total population of all ages for the particular race/Hispanic group.

2Represents the percent of the race/Hispanic group in the total population of all races for the particular age group.

3Hispanics may be of any race.

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

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Age structure

By itself, the size of the population in the various age segments will not determine the demand for services or the extent of participation in public programs. However, the age structure of future populations will affect the social and economic condition of the Nation, in particular as regards support for the economically dependent classes in our population.

The extent of labor force participation at the various ages, including the older ages, and the ages of retirement also will be influential, as will related economic factors such as the levels of productivity, unemployment, and cost of living. We consider the effect of labor force changes in the next section.

In this subsection, we describe the changes in age structure, i.e., the relative numbers of the age segments. Here, we discuss three dependency ratios: (1) the elderly dependency ratio, (2) child dependency ratio, and (3) total dependency ratio. By elderly dependency ratio we mean the number of persons 65 and older for every 100 persons 18 to 64. The child dependency ratio is expressed as the number of persons under 18 for every 100 persons 18 to 64. The total dependency ratio is expressed as the number of persons under 18 plus 65 and older per 100 persons 18 to 64.

The Bureau of the Census population projections initially show only small increases in the elderly dependency ratio from 20.9 in 1995 to 21.2 in 2010. Then, steep increases are projected during 2010 to 2030, with stability occurring at the level of 36 from 2030 to 2050 (Table 5). These changes in the ratios result from the entry of the baby-boom cohorts into the older age groups during 2010 to 2030, and the aging of the cohorts that follow the "baby boomers" (also known as the "baby bust" cohorts). Over the same decades, the child dependency ratio shows a modest U-shaped trend, meaning that the numbers decline from 43 persons under 18 per 100 persons ages 18 to 64 in 1995 to 39 in 2010, and then increase to 43 in 2030. The total dependency ratio will be lower in 2010 than in 1995. Between 2020 and 2030, however, the total dependency ratio will rise sharply, stabilizing at nearly 80 over the years 2030 to 2050. In fact, in the period 2010 to 2030, both the total dependency ratio and its component ratios will rise. Then, the ratios remain nearly unchanged from 2030 to 2050 as the age structure of the population stabilizes.

Table 5 - Projected Total, Child, and Elderly Dependency Ratios: 1995 to 2050 (Ratios expressed per 100 population. Middle series of U.S. Bureau of the Census.)
YEAR

TOTAL1

CHILDREN2

ELDERLY3

1995

63.7

42.8

20.9

2000

62.4

41.8

20.5

2010

60.2

39.0

21.2

2020

68.2

40.4

27.7

2030

78.7

43.0

35.7

2040

79.7

43.1

36.5

2050

79.9

43.9

36.0

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1996a).

1Ratio expressed as the number of persons under 18 plus the number of persons 65 years and over per 100 persons 18 to 64.

2Ratio expressed as the number of persons under 18 per 100 persons 18 to 64.

3Ratio expressed as the number of persons 65 years and over per 100 persons 18 to 64.

Table compiled by the National Aging Information Center

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