NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Children Make up Less of America's Population

July 15, 2011

Children now make up less of America's population than ever before, even with a boost from immigrant families, reports the Associated Press.

And when this generation grows up, it will become a shrinking workforce that will have to support the nation's expanding elderly population -- even as the government strains to cut spending for health care, pensions and much else.

  • Currently, the share of children in the United States is 24 percent, falling below the previous low of 26 percent of 1990.
  • The share is projected to slip further, to 23 percent by 2050, even as the percentage of people 65 and older is expected to jump from 13 percent today to roughly 20 percent by 2050 due to the aging of baby boomers and beyond.
  • In 1900, the share of children reached as high as 40 percent, compared to a much smaller 4 percent share for seniors 65 and older.
  • The percentage of children in subsequent decades held above 30 percent until 1980, when it fell to 28 percent amid declining birth rates, mostly among whites.

"There are important implications for the future of the United States because the increasing costs of providing for an older population may reduce the public resources that go to children," says William P. O'Hare, a senior consultant with the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children's advocacy group.

Pointing to signs that many children are already struggling, O'Hare adds: "These raise urgent questions about whether today's children will have the resources they need to help care for America's growing elderly population."

Source: Hope Yen, "Census: Share of Children in U.S. Hits Record Low," Associated Press, July 13, 2011.

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