America Is About to Get Really Old

The rest of the developed world is about to get even older.
Reuters

Today, one in seven Americans is over 65.

In 15 years, one in five Americans will be over 65.

The gray boom is inevitable and it's happening for two simple reasons. The first reason is that all Americans are living longer (except, for mysterious reasons, poor women). The second reason is that every living member of the baby boomer generation, the largest adult generation in U.S. history (there are actually more Millennials, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s), will be older than 65 in the year 2030. Here, from a new Census report, is a look at the steady growth of 65+ Americans—a population that will double in the next four decades.

Ben Casselman, of FiveThirtyEight, sums up America's age problem succinctly: "In 2012, U.S. had 22 people 65 and older for every 100 working-age people. In 2030, there will be 35." This is called the dependency ratio. 

The fact that America is getting older won't surprise you in the slightest if you're familiar with U.S. demographic trends or, more generally, the relentless march of time. What might surprise you, however, is how we stack up against other countries. Here's a look at America's dependency ratio compared with Japan and Western Europe. If you tab over to 2030, you can see the 20-year move. The upshot: Japan isn't just super-old; it's also getting older faster than any developed country in the world. Canada will leapfrog the U.S. in the next few decades to become the oldest country in the Americas, partly thanks to plentiful immigration from Latin American into the U.S. The numbers expressed in the chart below are percentages.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In