NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

America is Getting Older

April 5, 2004

The aging of America isn't a temporary event. We won't be getting older this year or this decade, and then turning back and getting younger. We are well into a change that is permanent, irreversible and very long term, note authors Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns -- who are senior fellows with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

We're in a quiet period now with enough new workers to replace those that retire. But by 2008, a dramatic shift will occur when the baby boomers start to retire. Where we had 35.5 million people age 65 and older in 2000, we'll have 69.4 million in 2030.

  • During those 30 years, the dependency ratio -- the ratio of those 65 and older to those 20 to 64 -- will rise from 21.1 percent to 35.5 percent.
  • The dependency ratio, which has hovered around 20 percent since 1985, ranging from a low of 20.6 percent projected for 2005 to a high of 21.6 percent in 1995, will start a major rise around 2015 when it hits 23.8 percent; by 2030, it will hit 35.5 percent.

The most dramatic way to see how rapidly the nation is aging is to compare the number of seniors -- those age 65 and over -- to the number of young people:

  • In 2000, there were 82 million people under the age of 20 in the United States. Their numbers dwarfed the 35.5 million seniors.
  • By 2030, however, there will be 88.6 million young people and 69.4 million seniors, approaching parity.
  • In 2080, only 50 years later, the number of seniors, 96.5 million, will finally exceed the number of young people, 95.8 million.

Source: Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns, "Age of the aged is drawing near as number of seniors increases, so will financial dependency," April 3, 2004; based upon Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns, "The Coming Generational Storm," MIT Press, April 2004.


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