FRANKFORT – The U.S. population is growing faster than a blade of bluegrass in spring. But a larger population will not necessarily mean a younger population, for either our country or the Bluegrass State.
The less-than-robust birth rate nationally and here in Kentucky over the past decade means that the largest population growth — at least over the next few decades — will be among the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), which means most population growth will be among older and the oldest Americans, demographers say.
“The good news is that people are living longer. The bad news is that people are living longer,” former state Data Center Director Ron Crouch told lawmakers a few years back. “A growing percentage of people are living into their fourth quarter (of life, which spans ages 75 to 100) and a few may even go into overtime — over age 100.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging added some context when it reported last year that the U.S. population aged 65 and older comprised 14.5 percent of the U.S. population in 2014 (or one in seven Americans). “By 2060,” the agency says on its website, “there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2014.”
This snapshot of an aging America is not just a look at our future; it is a look at America today. Population projections released by the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau estimate that populations age 45 and older would experience more growth than other age groups over this decade.
So, why are older populations growing more quickly than younger populations in our nation? The answer, according to Crouch, is actually two answers: increased longevity and a decline in fertility rates. And the fertility part doesn’t look likely to change.
U.S. census data released in 2011 shows U.S. births declined four percent from 2007 to 2009, and the decline continued. Some tie the birth rate decline to the economy, citing that American birth rates during and after the Great Recession were comparable to low rates during the Great Depression.
Teen birth rates are also at their lowest levels in our nation’s history. Last year, the Pew Research Center cited a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics that shows the birth rate among all teens has dropped 42 percent since the most recent teen birth rate peak in 2007.
Kentucky still has babies — lots of babies. From April 2010 to July 2016, the commonwealth was estimated to have had around 347,000 births. The year before, in 2015, the cumulative uptick in births from April 2010 to July 2015 was estimated to be around 291,400. But we also have an aging population. We will rise to whatever challenges our changing demography presents in the decades to come, as Kentuckians always do.
I’ll have more to share with you next week, but these changing demographics will affect many issues that will come before the Kentucky General Assembly in the months and years to come, including any effort at tax reform and additional steps to address the shortfalls in the state’s pension systems.
Interim joint committee meetings will begin soon in Frankfort, and we continue to hear rumors about the possibility of the governor calling a special session to address tax reform and the state’s pension systems. If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact me using the Legislative Message Line toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or emailing me at [email protected]. Thanks for the honor of serving as your state representative and have a great week.
State Rep. Rick Rand represents the state’s 47th House District in Carroll, Gallatin, Henry and Trimble counties.