NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nursing Shortage To Worsen As Baby Boomers Age

October 13, 2000

Experts are projecting a shortage of health care workers, particularly of registered nurses, by 2020, when the majority of baby boomers reach the age when most medical attention is needed.

According to testimony before a panel convened by the Nursing Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing and chaired by Lynn Martin, former U.S. secretary of labor:

  • In 2000, about 35 million people, or 13 percent of the U.S. population, are age 65 or older; by 2030, about 70 million, or 20 percent, will be 65 or older.
  • Between 1995 and 2010, the number of people in the United States 65 to 84 is expected to grow 13 percent. For those age 85 or older, the growth rate is 56 percent.
  • This means that while people age 85 or older make up 2 percent of the population in 2000, by 2050 they will make up 5 percent of the population.

Until about 2040, the labor supply will grow more slowly than the population. Between 1995 and 2005, there will be a 10 percent decrease in the number of people age 25 to 34 in the labor force.

And it is predicted that by 2020 there will be 20 percent fewer RNs than needed.

Source: Mike Mitka, "Panel Predicts Shortfall in Care for the Aged," Journal of the American Medical Association, October 11, 2000.


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