Working-Age Population Not Keeping Pace With Growth in Older Americans

The cry for “more” from some seniors and their advocacy groups such as the AARP and SocialSecurityWorks fails to consider the long term issues of shifting more of America’s resources to seniors while creating a growing liability for shrinking younger generations.


“Shift in Working-Age Population Relative to Older and Younger Americans


The surge in the number of Americans aged 65 and older this decade has outpaced the growth in the working-age population.

In counties across the United States, the dependency ratio has increased, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released today. Over the last decade, the growth of the non-working-age (dependent) population – ages 0 to 14 and 65 and older – has outpaced the growth of the working-age population.

A dependency ratio looks at the size of the population under the age of 15 (60,570,846 in 2019) and the 65-and-older population (54,058,263) and how their combined size compares to the population aged 15 to 64 (213,610,414). America’s population is aging. Since 2010, there has been a sizable 34% increase in the 65-and-older population, a growth of approximately 13.8 million people. During this period, the median age (the age at which half the population is younger and half is older) also increased from 37.2 to 38.4 years.

In 2019, more than half the states had a median age greater than 38.4. Every state in the Northeast had a median age higher than that of the nation. Along with increased aging, there have been changes in the population’s age structure. Most notably: the growth of the 65-and-older population and the shrinking of the population aged 14 and under.

The aging of baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, who were aged 55 to 73 in 2019, is partly driving the growth in the older population. The slow decline of the younger population, which has decreased by 657,000 people (1.1%) since 2010, is in part due to a general decrease in fertility, ongoing since 2007. An interesting pattern emerges when comparing changes in the younger population, older population and the working-age population (those aged 15 to 64) between 2010 and 2019.

Over the last decade, the growth of the non-working-age (dependent) population – those aged 0 to 14 and 65 and older – has outpaced the growth of the working-age population. The non-working-age population grew by 13.1 million, a 12.9% increase, while the working-age population increased by a modest 6.4 million or 3.1%. Two maps highlight this shift by showing the dependency ratio in counties across the nation. A lower ratio means there are fewer dependent-age people relative to the size of the working-age population.

In contrast, a higher ratio indicates there are more dependent-age people relative to those of working age. In 2010, the dependency ratio for the nation as a whole was 49.0, meaning that for every 100 working-age people there were 49 dependent-age people.

By 2019, this dependency ratio increased to 53.7, driven by the growth of the 65-and-older population. The geographic patterns and magnitude of change in dependency ratios are varied. In 2010, the ratios were highest in the Great Plains and parts of Florida. Still, numerous counties in 2010 had dependency ratios lower than the 2019 national ratio.

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Source: Working-Age Population Not Keeping Pace With Growth in Older Americans

One comment

  1. Prepared by Benefit Jack

    As Ricky Nelson would say (who?), “But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

    They’ve learned their lesson well. Congress has taught them well. Everyone else has ignored the “long term issues” – so why shouldn’t AARP and SocialSecurityWorks. Consider George W. Bush, he added $10+ Trillion in new Rx liabilities to buy votes for his 2004 re-election. Hey, then there was the American Recovery Act with ~$10 rillion of new deficits added thanks to President Obama and D’s in Congress (including Senator Harry Reid who managed to avoid formal budgets for six years), or the Trumper and the current Congress who will have triggered deficits that increased our debts by $10 – $15 T over the last three next seven years. Throughout the last 20 years, no one addressed the looming Social Security and Medicare deficits … despite the fact that President Clinton organized a blue ribbon committee in the 1990’s.

    If we want rational policy-making, all folks need to know is that:
    – Official poverty in America for those under age 18 has declined from 17.552MM of 64.315MM or 27.3% in 1959 to 11.869MM of 73.284MM or 16.2% in 22018, compared to
    – Official poverty in America for those over age 65 has declined from 5.481MM to 15.557MM or 35.2% in 1959 to 5.146 of 52.788 or 9.7% in 2018.

    Now, of course, those are much different populations than 61 years ago, when the baby boomers were mostly under age 18 (five more years before all were born) and when more than half of the baby boomers who have survived have reached age 62+ (everyone born before 1958), but it is clear who can vote and who cannot.

    This ain’t rocket science. Simply, Congress asks what will garner me enough votes for re-election. Old folks vote, young folks and the unborn don’t. Trump has said it as well – he continues to campaign promising to leave entitlements untouched. And, AARP and SocialSecurityWorks, whatever their failings, they know how to count and who counts … so does Congress (but only when they want to).


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