The best news I’ve heard in ages

What’s an old person anyway?  Does it depend on how many years are behind you, or how many years you still can expect to live?  Here is John Shoven:

The current practice of measuring age as years-since-birth, both in
common practice and in the law, rather than alternative measures
reflecting a person’s stage in the lifecycle distorts important
behavior such as retirement, saving, and the discussion of dependency
ratios.  Two alternative measures of age are explored: mortality risk
and remaining life expectancy.  With these alternative measures, the
huge wave of elderly forecast for the first half of this century
doesn’t look like a huge wave at all.  By conventional 65+ standards,
the fraction of the population that is elderly will grow by about 66
percent.  However, the fraction of the population that is above a
mortality rate that corresponds to 65+ today will grow by only 20
percent.  Needless to say, the aging of the society is a lot less
dramatic with the alternative mortality-based age measures.  In a
separate application of age measurement…GDP would be between seven and ten percent higher by 2050 if retirement
lengths stabilize.

Here is the paper (I can’t find a non-gated version).  Note that the entire increase of life expectancy of the twentieth century has been taken in the form of retirement, rather than extra work.  Of course our social security and Medicare policies have encouraged early retirement, and we have not adjusted age eligibilities for longer life spans and better health.  For fiscal reasons, we will likely have to increase eligibility ages; not only will we spend less money but it will encourage more work.

If you have been thinking that a demographically-based American economic collapse is virtually inevitable, this paper gives some grounds for hope.  Here is further commentary.


Comments for this post are closed