More Baby Boomers Need to Delay Retirement
As the GE data visualization on Working in America
notes, in the last decade the share of workers over 54 rose from 15 to 22 percent. But that was because the number of Americans aged 55 to 64 grew 8 times faster than the rest of the U.S. population, reflecting the "pig in the python" of aging baby boomers. As this cohort retires in ever larger numbers they will place an ever greater strain on the economy, as they produce less (and pay fewer taxes) but consume more taxpayer-provided services such as Medicare and Social Security.
This matters because, as discussed in my forthcoming book, Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage
, with Stephen Ezell, the U.S. is losing the competitiveness race, with the result being hollowed out industries, lost jobs and stagnating incomes. If we are to regain our competitive edge, the federal government will need to do two things:
- Make our corporate tax code more competitive (U.S. corporate taxes are among the highest in the world).
- Boost public investments in scientific research and skill development (the growth of U.S. public investments has lagged that of our key competitors).
This will be hard to do if baby boomers don't work longer. From 2000 to 2010, the share of Americans over 65 who were working increased from just 12 to 16 percent. That's not enough if we are going to be able to generate the societal resources needed to reduce the national debt, make our corporate tax code more competitive and boost critical public investments. As baby boomers continue to work longer and in so doing contribute to revitalizing the economy, they will help to make sure that their kids and grandkids have good jobs. Some will say that this will only mean fewer job vacancies for younger workers. But this fixed view of jobs is wrong: more older workers means more consumption and investment which creates even more jobs.
To learn more about who's been working in America since 1960, explore the above Working in America data visualization »
Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage (September 2012, Yale University Press).
- Robert D. Atkinson is founder and president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Washington, DC. He frequently advises state, national, and international policy makers and was appointed by the Obama Administration to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board. He is co-author with Stephen J. Ezell of