The United States is going through two big demographic transformations: our population is becoming non-white, and it’s aging in record numbers.
This is a profile of Future America, based on the most comprehensive survey ever of its kind by the Pew Research Center.
America’s age pyramid is changing. For the first time in history, a society’s age pyramid will turn into a rectangle. Living longer and having less kids are the ingredients for an older population. Other highly developed countries are also entering this uncharted territory in human history when there’ll be almost as many of us over 85 as there are under 5. One major consequence, there’ll be a lot less people working to support a lot more retirees, which means we’ll have to work more efficiently.
The good news is that we’re already well on our way to making that transition.
But with 10,000 baby boomers a day turning 65 between now and the year 2030, that change is happening fast. When Social Security began, there were 42 workers for every person receiving benefits. Today, that ratio is 3-1 and it will be just 2 workers to every 1 beneficiary soon enough.
Another piece of good news though is that the percentage of Americans who think this creates a strong conflict between the different generations is relatively low.
Here is how the four current adult generations feel about a few key topics.
Millennials and Gen Xers are much more politically liberal, as seen in our support for President Obama, our strong support of marijuana legalization, and same-sex marriage. As recently as 2000 though, there wasn’t much difference in the way young and old voted. But after Bush and the rise of Obama, the difference between the parties has never been clearer.
When it comes to religion, nearly twice as many Millennials as their parents say they have no affiliation.
Many of these trends are being driven by the Internet, and the fact that we Millennials are the final generation that will remember life without the online world. Today’s young people are digital natives.
The other factor that’s driving our open-mindedness is our diversity, which gets us to the other big transformation happening now in America.
In 2010, 64% of Americans identified as white, down 21% from 50 years earlier, and projected to be just 43% in 2060, with the country becoming less than half white around 2045. Immigration is driving this. A century ago, 9 in 10 immigrants were from Europe. Now, 8 in 10 are either Hispanic or Asian. And since immigrants tend to have a lot more kids than the rest of us, by 2050, 37% of Americans will either be direct, first-generation immigrants, or the children of immigrants–the highest number in modern American history.
The other brush painting this rainbow is interracial relationships. In 1960, 2.4% of marriages were interracial, a practice that was actually illegal in a third of the states then. Today, more than 15% of us are marrying across racial lines.
For the results, look no further than our current President, along with many of our most well-known celebrities.
Looking forward, as America continues to become more diverse and accepting of the differences among us, that’ll hopefully help us gain a greater ability to join the rest of the world in confronting the biggest challenges left to us to solve over the next 50 years. Battles like climate change, poverty, hunger, disease, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and cyber crime, are all issues that transcend international borders, requiring cooperation between many different kinds of people.
This video was created by Brendan Plank and Bryce Plank of The Daily Conversation.