October 23, 2011


America's Demographic Opportunity (Joel Kotkin 10/23/2011, New Geography)

Among the world's major advanced countries, the United States remains a demographic outlier, with a comparatively youthful and growing population. This provides an unusual opportunity for America's resurgence over the next several decades, as population growth elsewhere slows dramatically, and even declines dramatically, in a host of important countries.

This demographic vitality, however, can only work if there is substantive increase in the economic growth rate and particularly in employment. A growing population brings new entrants into the labor force at a rapid rate. Historically, a relatively positive relationship between workforce entrants and dependents, both old and young, has generated waves of growth across the past several decades. This is widely known as "the demographic dividend."

In the 1950s and 1960s, a relatively youthful population helped drive rapid economic growth first in Europe and then in Japan. By the 1970s, this "youth bulge" shifted to developing nations of east Asia, notably Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. China experienced this surge in workers in the 1980s and 1990s. More recently, the big winners in youth demographics could be found in countries such as Vietnam, Turkey and Brazil.

Yet remarkably throughout this period, the United States has retained its relative youthfulness. The last census showed the nation experienced 10 percent population growth over the first decade of the 21st Century, with a final count approaching 310 million people. This is in large part a product both of immigration and higher birthrates.

Today, the U.S. fertility rate of over two children per woman remains as much as twice as high as many countries, including Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Singapore and Korea. As a result, according to U.S. census projections, the United States will continue to grow to upwards of 420 million by 2050.

Posted by at October 23, 2011 7:02 AM

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