Philanthropy and a Changing World Part III

Excerpts from

By Susan Raymond, Ph.D.

An Aging Population Leans on the Arm of Its New Immigrants

Life expectancy at birth, now about 73, will rise to over 86 years by mid-century. The better measure, however, is life expectancy at age 65 and at age 85 because this illustrates the true effect of aging on the productive work force. By mid-century, the average 65 year old will expect to live to 85 or 90, compared to an expectation of about age 80 today, and the average 85 year old will expect to live to well over 90 and perhaps as old as an average of 95 years.

  • By 2025, nearly 80% of dependents will be elderly, not children, compared to 40% in 1960. The costs to the public purse will soar because elderly dependency is denominated in terms of both social security and health care costs. Elder dependency costs the economy three times youth dependency, and dependents over the age of 80 are three times again as expensive as dependants between 65 and 80.
  • In the experience of all industrialized nations, economic growth is most robust when dependency rates dip and societies can re-invest in the factors of production. Resources — public, individual, and family — fuel investment, not social payments. By 2025, however, the U.S. will have 65 dependents for every 100 workers, compared to 51 in 2000. Fewer workers and greater dependency is in the process of crippling European economies; the same scenario lies before the United States.
  • What will save us? Here, we must turn to the second significant demographic trend – immigration.
  • Latin America and Asia are the overwhelming sources of U.S. immigration, and by mid-century over a third of the U.S. population will be of Asian or Hispanic origin. The result is that cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity will increase. Already 47% of the population of the Bronx speaks Spanish at home, and there are 20 religious faiths in the U.S. with at least one million adherents each.
  • While the East and West coasts have historically been the magnets for immigration, projections to 2025 indicate that, as a percent of population, immigration will be greatest in the deep South and the Plains states.
  • What does this all mean for philanthropy and nonprofits? Clearly, American society and the American economy are in for several decades of fundamental change. With change comes tension, tension between generations over the allocation of resources, tensions between sectors of the economy in the competition for workers, tensions between ethnic groups in the search for equality and rights. These will not be trivial matters. Whole institutions and assumptions may come into question.