I am currently (re)writing our online course on marriage and family (a topic I generally stay away from but them’s the breaks). However, as usual, I decided to integrate a module on data exploration. I stumbled upon this Pew research report on global aging that contained a lot of information and data, so I thought I’d just share some of what I found interesting.

First of all, I find this interactive visual very useful as an introduction the state of the world population by age groups, from 1950 to 2050:

You can either examine data for the US (numbers and percentages) or the world. Focusing on percentages, for the global population, you can clearly see which age group is projected to grow or shrink. So, for instance, the 15 to 64 population is stays pretty much stable from 1950 to 2050 (from roughly 61 to 63%). The under 15 category peaks in 1965 (with 38%, the end of the baby boom) but projected at just over 21% by 2050. However, for the 65 and older age group, the shift is from about 5% in 1950, to 15% projected for 2050. These increases and decreases are clearly visible just by eye-balling the graphic. Switching to the Us, that shift to a “geezerification” of the population is even clearer. as it is for most wealthy countries.

The global overview is nice but only as a starting point. There is some need for some fine-tuning by country and since my main topic here is aging, let’s look at that, for selected countries

Let’s do that below the fold:


In terms of numbers, almost all the countries listed can expect a larger population by 2050 except for Russia, Germany, Japan, and Italy. You can see this more clearly on the graph below:


The % decrease are pretty dramatic for Germany, Russia and Japan, much less so for Italy. On the other hand, take a look at the % increase for the African countries in the sample, especially Nigeria and Kenya.

We can see this reflected in the median ages (actual and projected):


Not surprisingly, the countries with low or negative population growth tend to have a higher media age whereas the countries with higher population growth have a lower media age (compare Japan or South Korea to Nigeria and Kenya).

Focusing on aging again, let’s look at the proportion of seniors in the population (again, actual and projected):


Again, the regional differences are rather striking: Europe and the wealthy countries of Asia are projected high percentages of seniors, followed by North, Central, and South America, then the poorer countries Asia, and finally, African countries.

And you can see the almost reversed pattern when it comes to the percentage of young people:


Again, you could almost do the reverse ranking I did above.

An additional set of data that I find interesting on this are the dependency ratios:


Oy, Japan and Spain in 2050 and the projected increase for South Korea between 2010 and 2050. Just to be clear, the dependency ratio measures the number of “dependents” (under 15, 65 and older) for 100 people of working age. So, for 2050, Japan is projected to have 96 dependents for 100 working age individuals. The ratios double for Spain. This time, however, the ratios for Nigeria and Kenya are closer to that of Japan and other wealthy countries. On the hand, we can observe relatively stable ratios for the Americas and the Middle East.

Focusing exclusively on the old age dependency ratio (65 and older per 100 working age individuals), we get this:


Obviously, the listed African countries have very small old age dependency ratios, so we know their high total dependency ratios are on the other end of the spectrum. On the other hand, this confirms the large numbers of seniors in the projected population of South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, and Germany. Overall, one can see these old age dependency ratios go up from 2010 to projected 2050. The only difference is the extent of those increases. But no doubt, for the countries with high total or old-age dependency ratios, this raises serious public policy issues. Basically, how does a country function with a very high number of seniors as a proportion of the population? In a sense, Japan is a victim of its own success: high quality of life, healthy diet, good health care, and therefore a long life expectancy, but low fertility to offset the increase of elderly.

In terms of policy, countries with high dependency ratios will have to deal with cost of health care:


Of course, one would have to add the costs of private health care for some countries (like the US).

So, that is these are the facts. How does it get to perception? Well…


Big surprise, look at the top of the list, and then, at the bottom.

Of course, when faced with such an increase in the % of seniors in a population, the questions of general care is central:


These views regarding who should be responsible for the care of seniors are fascinating and I am sure they are based on cultural, political, and social factors that need to be explored further but the differences between, say, Pakistan, South Korea, and Russia are striking. Israel surprised me quite a bit, for some reason. I expected France to score higher on the government side.

There are a lot more data worth exploring in the full report. I have barely scratched the surface with this but if this is a topic on which you need some data, have at it.

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