Retirees will outnumber children for the first time in US history, report says

  • A report by the Census Bureau found that by 2035, adults over the age of 65 are expected to outnumber children under 18 for the first time in United States history.
  • The demographic change is attributed to declining fertility and aging baby boomers.
  • The report also said immigration will be a bigger driver for future population increases.
Greta, Gloria and Ruth pause for breath during a practice in Sun City, Arizona.
Dave Cruz | Barcroft Images | Getty Images
Greta, Gloria and Ruth pause for breath during a practice in Sun City, Arizona.

In less than two decades, retirees are expected to outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history, according to a newly released report by the Census Bureau, which noted that the findings had implications for government programs like Social Security.

The report projects that by 2035, there will be 78 million adults over the age of 65, compared to 76.4 million children under 18. Its authors attribute the demographic shift to declining fertility rates and aging baby boomers. By 2030, all baby boomers will have turned 65, and 1 in 5 Americans are expected to be older adults. The gap between older adults and kids is expected to widen further: By 2060, the report projects that there will be 95 million adults over 65, compared to 80 million kids under 18.

Rising life expectancy is also a contributor to the change. By 2060, the population of adults over 85-years-old in the United States is expected to more than triple from 6 million to 19 million.

This will make the country "grayer than ever," the report said.

That could have implications for Social Security and other programs funded by working-age taxpayers, Census Bureau said. In 2020, the bureau projects there will be three-and-a-half working-age adults for every elderly person eligible for Social Security – by 2060, the bureau said there will only be two-and-a-half working-age adults for every eligible Social Security recipient.

The report also noted that immigration is projected to become the main driver of population growth in 2030, but that isn't because immigration levels are rising.

"As the population ages, the number of deaths is projected to rise substantially, which will slow the country's natural growth," the report said. As a result, immigration is expected to be a bigger contributor to the total increase.

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