Aging America: Percentage of Children in U.S. Population Hits Record Low

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Is America following the footsteps of Japan, notorious for its aging and declining population?

The 2010 U.S. Census shows a major drop in the percentage of children in the States, the Associated Press reports. Currently, people younger than age 18 take up 24% of the entire U.S. population. By 2050, the number is predicted to fall even more, to 23%, while the senior population is set to jump from 13% to 19%.

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To be sure, the actual number of children has increased by 1.9 million, which is a 2.6% growth since 2000. However, the growth rate has slowed down. About half of the states, including Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and D.C. saw their total number of children diminish.

This is no surprise. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the U.S. maintained the healthy balance of 40 to 4% children-to-senior citizens ratio. Younger Americans’ share in the country’s population has been going downhill since the baby boom in the 1960s. By 1980s it went under 30% for the first time to 28%, and 10 years later, it dropped another 2%.

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The number from the recent census data would have been even lower if it weren’t for the immigrant and certain minority population, who make up one out of every four children. The number of white, black, and Native Indian children declined, while Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial children accounted for all the growth. If all immigration, both legal and illegal, were to stop, America’s population will start waning in 2048. That’s how much the U.S. population balance depends on immigration at this point.

Developed countries, including Japan, Russia and France, have seen population declines as well. With this trend, the working population will start to decrease starting in 2016.

The implications of aging and declining population are serious. With an insufficient labor force to support the growing elderly population, pension costs will go up and tax revenues will go down. Globally, the population imbalance increases the chance of a budget crisis, which we already struggle to handle.

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