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Home arrow eBook Categories arrow Social Science arrow 65+ in the United States: 2005

65+ in the United States: 2005

eBooks - Social Science
June 05 2008

65+ in the United States: 2005Population aging is one of the most important demographic dynamics aff ecting families and societies throughout the world. The growth of the population aged 65 and over is challenging policy makers, families, businesses, and health care providers, among others, to meet the needs of aging individuals.

This report analyzes data for the population 65 and older, disaggregated into narrower age groups where possible. The following terms are used for some of the component age groups: the young old (those aged 65 to 74), the oldest old (those aged 85 and over), and centenarians (those aged 100 and over). Deviations from the standard age groups are noted in the text.

How people experience aging depends on a variety of factors, including social and economic characteristics and health status, which are discussed in subsequent chapters in this report. The second chapter looks at the growth of the older population over the 20th century and into the 21st century, and includes data on race and Hispanic origin. The last section of this chapter provides a global context on population aging. The third chapter focuses on the health status of the older population.

Trends in mortality are examined, and chronic diseases and disability are discussed. The fourth chapter covers economic characteristics of the older population, including trends in labor force participation and retirement. Data on wealth, income, and poverty are also presented. In the fi fth chapter, geographic distribution and mobility of the older population are discussed.

The sixth chapter examines social characteristics of the older population, such as marital status, living arrangements, and educational attainment.

Growth of the Older Population

According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, a substantial increase in the number of older people will occur when the Baby Boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) begins to turn 65 in 2011. The older population is projected to double from 36 million in 2003 to 72 million in 2030, and to increase from 12 percent to 20 percent of the population in the same time frame. By 2050, the older population is projected to number 86.7 million.

The oldest-old population (those aged 85 and older) is also projected to double—from 4.7 million in 2003 to 9.6 million in 2030—and to double again to 20.9 million in 2050. The latter increase will reflect the movement of Baby Boomers into the oldest-old category. Despite the growth of the older population, the United States is relatively young compared with other developed countries. In 2003, 12.4 percent of the U.S. population was 65 and older, while in many developed countries, the proportion ranged between 16 percent and 18 percent. Part of the reason for this diff erence is that the United States has had higher levels of fertility and immigration in recent decades than those of other developed countries.

Growing Diversity of the Older Population

As the older population grows larger, it will also grow more diverse, refl ecting the demographic changes in the U.S. population as a whole over the last several decades. In 2003, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for nearly 83 percent of the U.S. older population, followed by Blacks (8 percent), Hispanics, who may be any race (6 percent), and Asians (3 percent).

Projections suggest that by 2030 the composition of the older population will be 72 percent non-Hispanic White, 11 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Black, and 5 percent Asian (Figure 1-2).

All these groups will experience growth in their older populations; however, the older Hispanic population is projected to grow the fastest, from just over 2 million in 2003 to nearly 8 million in 2030. The older Asian population is also projected to grow about as fast, from nearly 1 million in 2003 to nearly 4 million in 2030.

Race and Hispanic origin groups experience aging diff erently, as do men and women, and age groups within the older population. Looking at aggregate measures for the population 65 and older masks the range of their social and economic characteristics. Therefore, in this report data on the older population are presented disaggregated by age, sex, race or other characteristics when possible.

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Current Population Reports, Special Studies
By Wan He, Manisha Sengupta, Victoria A. Velkoff, and Kimberly A. DeBarros

U.S. Department of Commerce
Carlos M. Gutierrez,

David A. Sampson,
Deputy Secretary

Economics and Statistics Administration
Under Secretary for Economic Aff airs

Charles Louis Kincannon,


Population Profile and Growth

• In July 2003, 35.9 million people were aged 65 and older in the United States, or 12 percent of the total population. Among the older population, 18.3 million people were aged 65 to 74, 12.9 million were aged 75 to 84, and 4.7 million were 85 and older.

• The U.S. older population grew rapidly for most of the 20th century, from 3.1 million in 1900 to 35.0 million in 2000. Except during the 1990s, the growth of the older population outpaced that of the total population and the population under age 65.

• The older population is on the threshold of a boom. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, a substantial increase in the number of older people will occur during the 2010 to 2030 period, after the fi rst Baby Boomers turn 65 in 2011. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population at the latter date.

• The U.S. population continues to age. The median age (which divides the population into two groups, half younger and half older) rose from 22.9 in 1900 to 35.3 in 2000 and is projected to increase to 39.0 by 2030.

• In 2000, the oldest-old population (those 85 and older) was 34 times as large as in 1900, compared with the population aged 65 to 84 that was only 10 times as large. The oldest-old population is projected to grow rapidly after 2030, when the Baby Boomers begin to move into this age group.

• The number of centenarians (those 100 and older) has increased in the past several years, from about 37,000 in 1990 to over 50,000 in 2000. About 80 percent of centenarians are women.

• In 2000, 420 million people in the world were 65 and older, or 7 percent of the world’s population.

This number is projected to increase to 974 million by 2030. Most of the world’s older population, 59 percent, lived in developing countries in 2000. By 2030, projections indicate that that proportion will rise to over 70 percent.

Longevity and Health

• People in the United States are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Average life expectancy at birth rose from 47.3 in 1900 to 76.9 in 2000.

• Heart disease, malignant neoplasms (cancer), and cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) continue to be the leading causes of death among older Americans. Of the 1.8 million deaths in 2000 to people aged 65 and over, 33 percent were caused by heart disease, 22 percent were caused by malignant neoplasms, and 8 percent were caused by cerebrovascular diseases.

• Death rates for heart disease are declining for the population 65 and older. While lung cancer mortality has declined among men aged 65 to 84, it has increased among older women in all older age groups, surpassing breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death.

• About 80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition and 50 percent have at least two. Arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disorders are some of the leading causes of activity limitations among older people.

• Census 2000 counted about 14 million civilian noninstitutionalized older people with some type of disability. Older women were more likely than older men to experience disability, 43 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

• Disability among the older population is declining. Studies over the past two decades have revealed substantial declines in the rates of disability and functional limitation.

• Nursing homes provide the most common institutional setting for older people, with over 90 percent of institutionalized elders in the United States living in nursing homes. However, between 1985 and 1995, the proportion of older people who stayed overnight in nursing homes fell by 8 percent. And since the mid-1970s, nursing home use has decreased among Whites but increased among Blacks.

Economic Characteristics

• Labor force participation rates of older men have fallen dramatically since 1950, from 46 percent to 19 percent in 2003, while those of older women did not change statistically (10 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

• As employed men and women get older, their likelihood of working part-time increases. About 10 percent of employed men aged 55 to 64 worked part-time in 2003; while half (47 percent) of employed men aged 70 and over worked part-time. Similarly, one-quarter of employed women aged 55 to 64 worked part-time, while almost two-thirds aged 70 and over worked part-time.

• More working men (74 percent) than working women (69 percent) save for retirement, and men are better prepared and more likely to retire when the opportunity arises.

• Women receive lower retirement benefits than men. In 1999, women aged 65 and over received, on average, $8,224 annually as pension income, compared with $14,046 for their male counterparts.

• Many observers expect a major wave of retirement starting in 2011, when the fi rst Baby Boomers turn age 65.

• Social Security continues to provide the largest share of income for many older people.

• In 1959, 35 percent of people aged 65 and over lived below the poverty line. By 2003, the proportion had decreased to 10 percent.

• Poverty rates diff er by age and sex among the older population. Older women were more likely than older men (13 percent compared with 7 percent) to live in poverty in 2003. People aged 65 to 74 had a poverty rate of 9 percent, compared with 12 percent of those 75 and older.

• Older people who lived alone had the highest poverty rates. Among older women living alone in 2003, poverty rates were 17 percent for non-Hispanic White women and about 40 percent for Black women and Hispanic women.

• Households maintained by older people have net worth higher than that of all other households except for those maintained by householders in the preretirement ages of 55 to 64, which were similar.

Geographic Distribution

• In 2000, nine states had more than 1 million people 65 and older: California, Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey.

• Florida, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia were the states with the highest proportions 65 and older in 2000: 17.6 percent, 15.6 percent, and 15.3 percent, respectively.

• Between 1990 and 2000, the largest proportionate increases in the older population were mostly in the West (particularly the Mountain states) and in the South (especially the South Atlantic states). The changes in the older population ranged from a decrease of 10 percent in the District of Columbia to an increase of 72 percent in Nevada. The South and West regions also experienced the largest percentage increases in the oldest old (those aged 85 and over) during the 1990s.

• The older population accounted for at least 20 percent of the total population in 331 of the 3,141 counties in 2000.

• Three out of four older people lived in metropolitan areas in 2000. The oldest old were more likely to be living in metropolitan areas as well.

• In 2003, 96 percent of older people lived at the same residence as they did 1 year earlier. Of the remaining 4 percent who did relocate, half moved within the same county.

Social Profile

• In 2003, older men were more likely than older women to be married (71 percent compared with 41 percent). Three-quarters (74 percent) of men aged 65 to 74 were married, compared with roughly half (54 percent) of women in the same age group. The proportion married was lower at older ages: 34 percent of women aged 75 to 84 and 13 percent of women 85 and older. Among their male counterparts, the proportions were higher; 70 percent of men aged 75 to 84 were married, and even among men aged 85 and older, the majority were married (56 percent).

• Widowhood is more common among older women than older men. Women 65 and older were three times as likely as men of the same age to be widowed—44 percent compared with 14 percent.

The proportion widowed is higher at older ages and higher for women than men. In 2003, 78 percent of women aged 85 and over were widowed, compared with 35 percent of men.

• Less than 10 percent of older men (7 percent) and older women (9 percent) were divorced in 2003. About 4 percent of the older population had never married.

• Older men were more likely than older women to live with their spouse in 2003: 71 percent and 41 percent, respectively. In contrast, older women were more than twice as likely as older men to live alone (40 percent and 19 percent, respectively).

• In 1950, 17 percent of the older population had graduated from high school and 3 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. By 2003, 72 percent were high school graduates and 17 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree.

• In 2003, older men and older women were equally as likely to have graduated from high school, just over 70 percent. However, a higher proportion of older men than older women had attained a bachelor’s degree (23 percent compared with 13 percent). The gender gap in completion of a college education will narrow in the future because men and women in younger cohorts are earning college degrees at roughly the same rate.

• In 2003, 3.7 million, or 11 percent of the older population, were foreign born. Most of the older foreign born were from Europe and Latin America (about 35 percent each) and Asia (23 percent).

• In 2000, 13 percent of the older population spoke a language other than English at home; among them, more than one-third spoke Spanish. The proportion of Spanish speakers among those who spoke a language other than English at home increased from 28 percent in 1990 to 38 percent in 2000.

Diversity by Race and Hispanic Origin

• In 2003, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for nearly 83 percent of the older population. Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics accounted for 8 percent, 3 percent, and 6 percent, respectively.

• Projections indicate that by 2030, the composition of the older population will be more diverse: 72 percent non-Hispanic White, 11 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Black, and 5 percent Asian.

• The older Hispanic population is projected to grow rapidly, from just over 2 million in 2003 to nearly 8 million in 2030. The older Hispanic population is projected to become larger than the older Black population by then. The older Asian population is also projected to experience a large increase. In 2003, nearly 1 million older Asians lived in the United States; by 2030, this population is projected to be almost 4 million.

• The older populations in some groups are concentrated regionally. In 2000, almost three-quarters of all older Hispanics lived in four states: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Nearly two-thirds of older Asians lived in the West.

• Sex and racial diff erences in life expectancy at birth persist. Average life expectancy at birth in 2000 was 80.0 years for White females, 74.9 years for Black females, 74.8 years for White males, and 68.2 years for Black males. However, the gender and racial diff erences in life expectancy are declining.

The difference in life expectancy between the Black and White populations stood at 5.7 years in 2000, a decrease from 7.1 years in 1993. The diff erence in life expectancy by sex stood at 5.4 years in 2000, a decline from 7.6 years in 1970.

• Poverty rates among the older population diff er by race and Hispanic origin. In 2003, older non- Hispanic Whites were less likely than older Blacks and older Hispanics to be living in poverty: 8 percent compared with 24 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Older non-Hispanic White and Black women had higher poverty rates
than their male counterparts.

• Living arrangements of older people also diff er by race and Hispanic origin. In 2003, older Black, Asian, and Hispanic women were more likely than non-Hispanic White women to live with relatives. Older non-Hispanic White women and Black women were more likely to live alone (about 40 percent each) than were older Asian and Hispanic women (about 20 percent each). Older Black men lived alone more than three times as often as older Asian men (30 percent compared with 8 percent). Older Asian men were most likely to live with relatives (23 percent).

• While the educational attainment has risen among older Americans, substantial educational differences exist by race and Hispanic origin. In 2003, the proportion who had completed high school was 76 percent for non-Hispanic Whites, 70 percent for Asians, 52 percent for Blacks, and 36 percent for Hispanics.

• In 2003, older Asians had the highest proportion with at least a bachelor’s degree (29 percent). The proportions were 19 percent, 10 percent, and 6 percent, respectively, for older non-Hispanic Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics.

Future Implications

• The social and economic implications of the aging of the Baby Boom generation will be a significant concern for policy makers, the private sector, and individuals. The size and longevity of this group will trigger debate about possible modifi cations to Social Security, Medicare, and disability and retirement benefi ts, among other issues.

• The changing marital and family composition that is occurring in the United States is likely to change the types of familial support that are available to people at older ages.

• The future older population is likely to be better educated than the current older population, especially when Baby Boomers start reaching age 65. Their increased levels of education may accompany better health, higher incomes, and more wealth, and consequently higher standards of living in retirement.

• Older women will be increasingly more likely to have been in the labor force long enough to have their own retirement income, although their lower median earnings may translate into lower incomes in retirement.

• Research on genetic, biological, and physiological aspects of aging is likely to change the future for the older population. In the medical and public health arenas, research to understand chronic diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, may produce signifi cant improvements for treatment and prevention.

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