The United States Census Bureau reported that the median age in America reached an all-time high of 38.9 years old. This means that half of Americans are older than this age, and half are younger. The median age has been increasing over time at a rapid rate; in 2000, it was 35, in 1980 it was 30.
This rise in median age has significant implications in many areas, such as economic development, national security, and social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The reason behind this rise is the exploding number of older Americans in both absolute and relative terms. For instance, between 2010 and 2020, the number of Americans aged 65 or older grew by 15.5 million.
For context, it took half a century, from 1960 to 2020, for the 65-and-older group to grow that much. Shockingly, the number of Americans age 95 and older grew by 50% between 2010 and 2020.
The vast majority of the baby-boomer generation, which consists of about 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, are now in retirement age, hence only a few at the tail end of this group have not yet reached Social Security’s minimum age of 62.
This rise in the median age has caused most Americans to expect to work longer before retiring, except for Gen Z.
The Aging of America: A Growing Challenge for Social Security and Medicare
It’s no secret that the aging of America is putting a strain on Social Security and Medicare. With the baby boomer generation now entering retirement age, and their children—sometimes called echo boomers—not having enough children of their own, the number of older Americans is growing rapidly while the number of younger Americans is not.
According to a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division, “You can really see how the aging of baby boomers, and now their children, is impacting the median age…Without a rapidly growing young population, the U.S. median age will likely continue its slow but steady rise.”
What’s even more concerning is that among the fast-growing 65-and-older crowd, some subgroups are growing at an even quicker pace. The number of Americans age 95 and older, for example, grew by 50% between 2010 and 2020.
This demographic shift is putting a huge financial strain on Social Security and Medicare. Officials have been warning that the Social Security Trust Fund is paying out more than it is taking in, and if action isn’t taken, monthly payouts will be cut by 25% as early as 2035.
The falling birth rate in America is only adding to this financial strain. While birth rates have been declining for nearly two decades, they now show signs of leveling off. But this may not be enough to offset the growing number of older Americans.
The bottom line: America is facing a daunting challenge as its population continues to age. Policymakers and citizens alike must work together to find solutions that ensure the long-term survival of Social Security and Medicare.
The Impact of Immigration on Aging Population
As the median age continues to rise, so does the pressure on entitlement programs. This is due, in part, to a decrease in immigration to the United States in recent years.
For decades, the United States has welcomed immigrants with open arms, and this influx has historically helped keep the population young. However, the trend has shifted, and immigration rates have declined.
It’s important to consider the impact of immigration on our aging population and the associated strains on entitlement programs. While there may be varying opinions on how to handle immigration policies, it’s clear that the issue requires attention and action.