It’s no secret that an aging population will be the source of major demographic challenges in the coming years.
In 1975, the median age in the United States was just 28 years old. However, it’s been rising fast as the Baby Boomers age, and it’s expected to break the 40 year mark by 2030.
This shift is so fundamental that its ripples will be felt in almost every area imaginable. How we manage this change will have implications on the economy, culture, and politics – and it will almost certainly affect our personal wealth and investments, as well.
Visualizing Age in the U.S.
We’ve previously compared the population pyramids of China and India, but today we’re going to key in on the U.S. using a similar type of animation.
Below is an animated population pyramid that shows how the U.S. population has been shifting, including projections up until 2050 based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and World Bank.
Credit: Reddit user milamiso
By 2050, the U.S. population will close in on 400 million people.
As with most demographic data, viewing changes in the composition of this population through a visual lens helps to provide perspective.
One of the biggest differences in this particular chart can be seen in the 65+ year region. In the 1980s, only a small portion of the population fits there – but by the end, it’s becoming quite crowded.
In more numerical terms – the number of Americans aged 65+ is projected to jump from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65+ age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24%. This is mainly a function of a big generation (Baby Boomers) hitting their later years, and improved life expectancy and healthcare.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, aging Baby Boomers could mean a massive 75% increase in number of Americans requiring nursing home care, from 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030.
Social Security and Medicare expenditures will also increase from 8% to 12% of GDP by 2050.
Another factor in the population equation is also lower fertility rates.
U.S. Fertility Rate (births per woman)
In the United States, the fertility rates that led to the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) have been long-gone for many decades now.
Lately, fertility has been hovering closer to 1.8 births per woman.
For reference, the replacement fertility rate is about 2.1 – meaning that without taking into account net immigration, each new generation will be smaller than the last. Unless something changes here (or with immigration policy), a more mature population will increasingly become the norm for the country.
Mapped: The World Divided Into 4 Regions With Equal Populations
This simple map visualization will change how you think about global population, and how people are distributed throughout the planet.
World Map: Divided Into 4 Regions With Equal Populations
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
At the most basic level, a standard world map tells us almost nothing about human population.
While the borders on a map may give us an idea of political boundaries or even aspects of continental geography, in reality they have little to do with showing population density.
That said, it is possible to apply one simple alteration to the world map so that we can make it more interesting from a population perspective – and it turns out that doing so can help us gain insight on where regional population density is the greatest.
Splitting Up the Map
Today’s map comes from Reddit user /u/OrneryThroat and it breaks up the world by grouping countries into four equally populated regions.
While both simple and crude, this mechanism does have some profound results:
|North America, South America, and West/Central Africa||1.9 billion|
|Europe, East Africa, Middle East, and Northern Asia||1.9 billion|
|South Asia||1.9 billion|
|Most of Southeast Asia, China, and Oceania||1.9 billion|
More specifically, there is one area that stands out from a visual standpoint, and it resides clearly in the southern portion of Asia.
Home to 1.34 billion people, it’s well-known that India already holds roughly 20% of the global population – but add Pakistan (195 million) and Bangladesh (165 million) into the mix, and you’re already closing in on one quarter of the global total.
Meanwhile, to get to a similar number, you’d need to add the entire populations of North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania together to even come close.
Shown Another Way
While splitting it into four equal portions is one way to transform the world map, here is another geometric route to conveying a similar idea about the world’s population density:
On a previous Chart of the Week, we showed that 22 of the world’s 37 megacities are located in the small circle above, putting into perspective the region’s population density in a similar but different way.
These simple transformations of the world map are not only memorable, but they also give our brain an easy heuristic to better understand the planet we live on.
The World Population Pyramid (1950-2100)
The world is in the midst of a notable demographic transition. Here’s how the world population pyramid will change as we close in on the year 2100.
The world is in the midst of a notable period of demographic transition.
Back in the 1960s, global population growth peaked at a 2.1% annual rate, but since then it has been on a historic downtrend.
In fact, according to the most commonly cited United Nations projection, which is based on a medium fertility rate scenario, it’s expected that annual population growth could drop all the way to 0.1% by the end of the 21st century.
Visualizing a Demographic Transition
Today’s powerful charts come from Our World in Data by economist Max Roser, and they show how global demographics will shift over the next 80 years.
Below you can see one major catalyst of this change, which is the peaking (and then falling) population growth rate:
Why has population growth been dropping since the 1960s?
A variety of explanations factor into this, including:
- Falling fertility rates:
Birth rates tend to fall as nations get richer. First, this happened in the developed world, but as the century progresses this phenomenon will impact more and more developing nations.
- Government policy:
China’s “One Child Policy” in particular had an effect on global population growth, and the aftermath of the policy is still contributing to a shrinking Chinese population over the long term.
- Rural flight
Urban dwellers tend to have fewer babies – and by 2050, there will be an additional 2.5 billion people living in cities globally.
Fewer births combined with improving healthcare – especially in developing nations – will dramatically alter the composition of the world population pyramid, creating both economic opportunities and challenges in the process.
The Changing World Population Pyramid
The following graphic charts how these changes affect the makeup of the world’s population.
Over time, the shape of the world population pyramid is expected to shift from Stage 1 (high birth rates, high death rates) to something closer to Stage 4 (low birth rates, low death rates).
As the population distribution skews older, here is how population size and global median age will change:
|Year||Global Population Size||Median Age|
|1950||2.6 billion||23.6 years|
|2018||7.6 billion||30.0 years|
|2050||9.7 billion||36.1 years|
|2075||10.7 billion||39.0 years|
|2100||11.2 billion||41.6 years|
Dates past 2018 are projections by the United Nations
Global median age is projected to surpass 40 years by the end of the century, and it will be considerably higher in many Western nations, especially in Japan and Europe.
With the future demographic composition looking very different than today, it will be fascinating to see how the economy responds to these potential tailwinds. Further, it will be even more interesting to see what role automation will play as the old-age dependency ratio hits historic highs.
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