An Aging Population May Be What the World Needs
Americans just don’t make babies like they used to. The U.S. birthrate is the lowest in nearly a century, according to a study released last year by the Pew Research Center. It’s half the level of the Baby Boom years after World War II. American women, on average, are likely to have fewer than two children during their lifetime, which means not enough babies are being born to maintain the current population size. Even among new arrivals, the trend is declining: The birthrate among Mexican immigrants to the U.S. has plummeted 23 percent since 2007.
This reproductive recession is not unique to America; it’s a global phenomenon. Women just about everywhere are having fewer kids and having them later in life. The world is about to get a lot older very fast.
Planetary senescence casts a shadow on the world economy’s long-term prospects for growth. Already, the burden of supporting aging populations with a shrinking pool of able-bodied workers threatens the solvency of governments in advanced economies. Even so, the Baby Bust doesn’t need to be a disaster. Policymakers and the public will have to adjust to changes in the way we allocate resources and define work, but an older, grayer world may turn out to be a better place.
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