NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 21, 2010

By 2050, there will be about 100 million more Americans, bringing the total U.S. population to more than 400 million.  With a fertility rate 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany, or Japan, and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, and virtually all of Eastern Europe, the United States has become an outlier among its traditional competitors, all of whose populations are stagnant and seem destined to eventually decline, says Joel Kotkin, a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Chapman University and author of "The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050." 

Perhaps an even more important demographic gap is emerging between the United States and East Asia, says Kotkin: 

  • Over the past few decades a rapid expansion of their workforce fueled the rise of the East Asian tigers, the great economic success story of our epoch, yet, within the next four decades, a third or more of their populations will be older than 65, compared with only a fifth in America.
  • By 2050, according to the United Nations, roughly 30 percent of China's population will be more than 60 years old.
  • Lacking a developed social-security system, China's rapid aging will start cutting deep into the country's savings and per capita income rates.  

A slowdown of population growth in poor countries can offer a short-term economic and environmental benefit.  But in advanced countries, a rapidly aging or decreasing population does not bode well for societal or economic health, explains Kotkin: 

  • Between 2000 and 2050 the U.S. population aged 15 to 64 -- the key working and school-age group -- will grow 42 percent.
  • Meanwhile, the same group will decline by 10 percent in China, nearly 25 percent in Europe, and 44 percent in Japan.  

Unlike its rivals, America's economic imperative will lie not in meeting the needs of the aging, but in providing job and income growth for our expanding workforce.  What the United States does with its "demographic dividend" -- that is, its relatively young working-age population -- will depend largely on whether the private sector can generate jobs, an issue that's particularly critical now, with more than 15 million unemployed, says Kotkin. 

Source: Joel Kotkin, "400 Million People Can't Be Wrong; Why America's new baby boom bodes well for our future," Newsweek, April 16, 2010. 

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