The Census Bureau has updated its population projections.
The population forecasts look like demographic science fiction. Statisticians at the bureau use survey data and forecasting models to estimate how the U.S. population will change from now through 2060. They also try to estimate how old the future Americans will be, and how many of those Americans of the future will be men and how many will be women.
The forecasters now say, based on 2010 census data and other data, that the total U.S. population could be 359 million in 2030 — or 16 years from now, when significant numbers of the people now planning for long-term care (LTC) needs might be starting to use LTC services. That’s up slightly from a total of 358 given in 2012 projections based on 2010 Census data, and but it’s down 1.4 percent from a total of 363,584 given in 2004 projections based on 2000 Census data.
The projected totals and demographic breakdowns could easily be wrong. If immigration increases, that could increase the size of the population and affect the age distribution.
If Ebola or a bad influenza pandemic took root in the United States before the country had a good vaccine or effective treatments ready, that could decrease the size of the population.
But managers of government programs use the projections to shape their thoughts about the kinds of resources they might need for schools and health care facilities in the future.
Insurers can use the projections to shape their thoughts about what their prospects, active-life insureds and beneficiaries might look like.
For three glimpses of what the new projections say, and how the new projections are different from earlier projections released in 2004 and 2012, read on.
1. The total number of people ages 65 and older could be even higher than forecasters thought a few years ago
Forecasters now say the country could have 74.1 million people ages 65 and older in 2030, up from 55 percent from the current number of people in that age group — 47.8 million.
That 65-plus population estimate is now 1.8 percent higher than the 72.8 million figure given in the 2012 forecast, and 3.7 percent higher than the 71.5 million estimate given in the 2004 forecast.
If the 2030 65-plus population is really much higher than forecasters expected just a few years ago, that could be hard on government programs and private products that begin paying benefits at age 65.
Most consumers now qualify for Medicare when they turn 65, and many consumers with private retirement accounts begin drawing from the accounts even before they turn 65.
2. The percentage of the population in the “oldest old” category might not be that high
Some unlucky people need LTC services from the moment they’re born, and the percentage who need care increases gradually as the years go on. Some develop dementia even before they reach age 65.