U.S. population grew older, faster over the last decade

Census data shows that baby boomers grew older and birth rates dropped, aging the nation quickly

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the United States population grew older, faster than at any other time in over a century, according to reporting by the Associated Press (AP).

“The share of residents 65 or older grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2020 and at the fastest rate of any decade in 130 years, while the share of children declined, according to new figures from the most recent census,” the AP reported on Thursday.

The drop in children under the age of five was a notable trend, and helped to push the median age in the U.S. from 37.2 in 2010 to 38.8 in 2020, according to the data. The changes were also affected by the two largest age groups, baby boomers and millennials. More baby boomers passed age 65, and fewer children were born over the 10-year period.

“The decline stems from women delaying having babies until later in life, in many cases to focus on education and careers, according to experts, who noted that birth rates never recovered following the Great Recession of 2007-2009,” the AP reported.

University of Maryland Sociologist Philip Cohen attributes the drop in birth rates to factors impacting the affordability levels of having a child.

“In the short run, the crisis of work-family balance, the lack of affordable child care, stresses associated with health care, housing, and employment stability, all put a damper on birth rates by increasing uncertainty and making it harder to decide to have and raise children,” Cohen told the AP.

There were also social and economic consequences caused by an older average population, including the level of working-age adults able to support payments to older citizens via the social security and Medicare programs.

“The Census Bureau calculates a dependency ratio, defined as the number of children plus the number of seniors per 100 working-age people,” the AP reported. “While the dependency ratio decreased for children from 2010 to 2020, it increased for seniors by 6.8 people.”

The reverse mortgage industry has long discussed the “silver tsunami,” a term that describes a significant increase in the number of seniors at or over the age of 62 and, in turn, those who qualify for a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).

These demographic trends, in conjunction with the reported shortfalls regarding retirement financing, likely mean that the industry will be keeping a close eye on the progression of these trends.

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