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Older Adults Will Outnumber the Young for the First Time

In less than two decades, we'll have more people over the age of 65 in this country than children, predicts the Census Bureau

“The 2030s are projected to be a transformative decade for the U.S. population,” said a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday.

That’s putting it mildly.

Based in part on data from the 2010 census, the report is projecting three core changes for the 2030 decade — and they hinge on the baby-boom generation.

As this cohort moves into 2030, one in every five Americans will be retirement age, 65, or older. And by the middle of that decade, for the first time in our history older adults will outnumber children.

Due to that aging population, immigration will take over as the primary driver of population growth in the United States.

This is the case not because immigration is projected to increase. Immigration is actually projected to remain flat.

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The reason immigration will soon drive our population growth is that the natural growth of our population will flag. Natural growth is the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths.

A substantial proportion of our population in the coming years will be older, which means more people will be dying. In addition, fertility rates are expected to decline — fewer people will be born. So, for those reasons, natural growth will take a back seat to immigration as a driver of our population growth by 2030.

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The report also highlighted changes we will likely see into 2060. Just two years shy of that date, our increasingly racially and ethnically diverse American population will pass the 400 million mark.

Though our population will be growing more slowly, it will still be growing. This is not the case for other developed nations such as Japan, Russia, and those in Eastern European, the projections for each of which are for declining population.

Other notable findings from the Census Bureau report are these:

  • Though non-Hispanic whites will remain the largest race/ethnic group, this is the only group projected to shrink, contracting by about 19 million people by 2060.
  • The proportion of non-Hispanic white Americans will be about one in three by 2060.
  • By 2045, non-Hispanic whites will no longer comprise the majority of the U.S. population.
  • By 2020, fewer than half of America’s children will be non-Hispanic white.
  • The share of children who are two or more races is projected to more than double in coming decades, from 5.3 percent today to 11.3 percent in 2060.
  • By 2028, the population of foreign-born to native-born will be at the highest point since 1850.
  • Foreign-born people, 78 percent of whom are of working age, are more likely to be in the labor force than their native-born peers.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.