NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Population Growth Rate Slowing

August 28, 2001

Demographers compare what is happening to the U.S. population to an upside-down pear -- a huge elderly population tottering on a working-age group too small to support it. Many other nations -- both industrialized and Third World -- are similarly positioned, experts report.

  • According to the latest U.S. Census and United Nations data, worldwide birth rates have fallen 40 percent in the last half century and the decline is continuing.
  • Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute finds that the global annual population growth rate -- which was 2 percent in the 1960s and is now down to 1.3 percent -- will drop to 0.8 percent by 2025.
  • The Social Security Administration estimates that between now and 2020, the 65-plus population in the U.S. will grow 100 percent -- but the number of those ages 20 to 64 will grow only 15 percent.

Such prospects have many demographers and world leaders concerned. Not only might there come a time when there would be too few workers to support retirees, but there would also be too few workers to support economic growth.

Two remedies are being suggested: encouraging people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, and expanding the work force through immigration.

Such policies might be applied not only in the U.S., but also in other nations facing similar population scenarios -- such as Japan and many European countries.

At any event, the prospect undercuts the arguments of those who seek zero population growth.

Source: Betsy McCaughey, "As Population 'Boom' Goes Bust, World Economy Faces Grim Future," Investor's Business Daily, August 28, 2001.


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