Macro consequences of global aging

Global aging (the increasing numbers and share of the population that are of older chronological age) is one of the major demographic phenomena of our time, and one that will have increasingly dramatic consequences on other macro-level social and demographic trends.  Changing dependency ratios of older adults (relative to early and middle age adults and children) are altering the nature of individual families and their support for older family members, and also aggregating up at societal levels to influence national and global economic growth. This in turn affects resources available for social insurance programs that benefit older adult health such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; affects investment levels and priorities in biomedical research; and interacts with other trends to affect both intra-generational and inter-generational health inequalities (with inequality being another signature phenomenon of our time). The National Transfer Accounts is flagship project, and it generates many areas of exploration.

National Transfer Accounts Project. This project, headed by Gretchen Donehower (CEDA); Ronald Lee (Demography and Economics), is a large community of academic and government researchers who develop macro-level data for international comparative research and detailed area studies. Data as rich as these leads to many additional subprojects. A current CEDA-funded pilot project is “Population Aging and the demand for paid and unpaid care: the US in international context.” Goals of this research are to extend and deepen the well-established methods of National Transfer Accounts (NTA) and National Time Transfer Accounts (NTTA). The US population is in the middle of a 25-year phase of exceptionally rapid aging as the Baby Boom generations move into old age. Although prevalence rates for disability above age 65 have been falling, including for cognitive impairment, the swelling size of the elderly population is leading to increasing numbers of elderly in need of care and disability prevalence rates may rise in future years. The needed care is provided by families, paid home care providers, and institutions. This study takes a population-level perspective that is grounded in the demography of age structure and how that influences the demand and supply for intergenerational care, whether through families, the public sector, or markets.