The United States will soon be bigger, older, and more diverse

APM Research Lab Note: Following the release of this blog, the Census Bureau indicated it had found an error in its 2017 population projections. We have updated this blog to reflect corrections in the data.

By 2060 the U.S. population is projected to be 404 million, nearly one-quarter larger than today’s 326 million residents. Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

By 2060 the U.S. population is projected to be 404 million, nearly one-quarter larger than today’s 326 million residents. Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash


By Kassira Absar, Research Associate

The United States will soon be bigger, older, and more diverse

By 2060 the United States is expected to have: 

  • 404 million people, nearly one-quarter larger than today’s population

  • 1 in 4 people at least age 65, up from 1 in 7 today

  • About one third of the child population who are non-Hispanic White, down from over half today

The United States population is expected to be bigger, older, and more diverse by 2060, according to the latest Census Bureau projections. How might this country’s composition change between now and then, its 284th birthday?

Bigger

The U.S. population has been upsizing by about 2.3 million people annually since the beginning of this decade and is projected to continue doing so until 2030. Then this growth spurt is expected to slow, eventually slowing to a rate of roughly 1.6 million people added annually by 2060. By that year, the U.S. population is projected to be 404 million, nearly one-quarter larger than today’s 326 million residents.

Older

By 2035, adults who are “typical retirement age” (65 and above) are projected to outnumber children (under age 18), in part due to the continued aging of the vast Baby Boomer generation. The number of people who are at least 85 years old is expected to increase two-fold to approximately 11.8 million, eventually growing to approximately 19 million by 2060.

The share of the population who is at least age 65 will increase from about 1 in 7 today to about 1 in 5 in 2030, when nearly all Baby Boomers will be of typical retirement age. By 2060, just under 1 in 4 Americans will be at least 65 years old. And by that point, even the youngest Millennial will be 64 years old (I’m looking forward to reading all the think pieces on “sixty-somethings”).

The coming decades will also see a shift in the size of age groups relative to each other. From 2020 to 2060, the Bureau projects the number of typical retirement-age adults for every 100 typical working-age adults will almost double, from 21 to 41. Over the same four decades, the number of children for every 100 working-age adults is projected to fall just slightly, from 36 to 35. Counting both children and retirement-age adults, the total so-called “dependency ratio” is expected to increase from 64 dependents to 76 dependents per 100 working-age adults from 2020 to 2060.

By 2060 the Census Bureau projects there will be 76 children and older adults (combined) for every 100 typical working-age adults.  Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2017 Population Projections

By 2060 the Census Bureau projects there will be 76 children and older adults (combined) for every 100 typical working-age adults.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2017 Population Projections

More diverse

Advancing racial and ethnic diversity is already well underway among the nation’s youth. The year 2020 is projected to be a critical moment for the future composition of the United States. For the first time, children of Color are expected to be a larger share of the population than non-Hispanic White children, who will likely fall just under 50 percent in the next two years. By 2060 just over 1 in 3 children are projected be non-Hispanic White.

The United States is en route to becoming a “minority majority” nation, with populations of Color expected to outnumber non-Hispanic Whites by 2045. What may be less known is that the non-Hispanic White share of the population is expected to decrease by 19 million people (198 million to 179 million) between 2016 and 2060. In fact, the non-Hispanic White group is the only major racial or ethnic group projected to shrink during this period. 

On the other hand, multiracial Americans are projected to grow faster than any other major racial or ethnic group over the next four decades. This is unsurprising given the diversity of younger generations and increased intermarriage. From 2016 to 2060, the number of multiracial Americans is expected to triple, from approximately 8.5 million to approximately 25.3 million.

How the racial make-up of the U.S. is projected to change by 2060, by age groups

The increase in the Asian- and Hispanic-American populations is expected to gain speed, although the driving force of the growth differs for each group. If these projections hold, population gains made by the relatively young multiracial and Hispanic populations will be driven by natural increase (births outnumbering deaths), while the share of Asians will be growing due to high net international migration.

The foreign-born share of the population is also expected to increase by 25 million by 2060, from 44 million to 69 million, or from 14 percent to 17 percent of the population. However, the Census Bureau expects a gradual increase of about 1.1 million new international migrants each year (i.e. net international migration nation-wide is projected to be stagnant).

The makeup of these immigrants is shifting. Up until about 2010, the largest share of migrants came from Latin America, followed by Asia. Asia is now taking over the first-place spot for largest sending region of migrants to the United States. By 2030, with steady net international migration and the rising mortality rate, net international migration is expected to be the leading cause for population growth.

By 2030 immigration is projected to overtake natural increase as the main driver of population growth in the United States. Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2017 Population Projections

By 2030 immigration is projected to overtake natural increase as the main driver of population growth in the United States. Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2017 Population Projections

Given that these projections of mortality, fertility, and international migration are based on historical trends, changes such as immigration policy, health behaviors, or medical advances can affect this outlook. Yet as the composition of the United States continues to change, the Census Bureau projections allow us to grasp the potential implications of these shifts, in areas such as resource consumption, health care, elections, and social programs. For example, as a larger share of the nation moves past typical retirement age, how might this affect younger generations and the caregiving sector? As they say, “Only time will tell.”

-Kassira

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Interested in how these sorts of changes are playing out in your state? See our earlier state-by-state look at natural changedomestic migration and international migration.

This article was authored by Kassira Absar, former Research Associate for the APM Research Lab.


Josh Quinn