Department of Sociology

U.S. Demographers Highlight Key Trends for the Future of the U.S. Population

Tue, November 20, 2007

1. In 2017, the 21 million children who are now under age 5 will be in middle and high school, where they will be preparing for productive roles in the economy. Yet, 1 in 5 American children currently belongs to a poor family.

2. Inequalities among children may continue to increase. Since 1960, young children whose mothers are highly educated have gained steadily in time and money resources, while children whose mothers have low education levels have fallen behind. Over time, differences among these groups in family income, mother's employment, and intact parental marriages have all increased significantly. Even the amount of time that fathers spend with children differs by fathers' education, and this difference has also increased over time.

3. Rates of unintended pregnancy may continue to increase among the nation's poor. Between 1994 and 2001, the rate of unintended pregnancy increased by 29% among poor women but fell 20% among women with moderate or high incomes. If poor and near-poor women had achieved the same reductions in unintended pregnancy as better-off women, the abortion rate would have declined by 32%, instead of 12%, during this period.

4. Health disparities will persist. The U.S. has made some progress in reducing health disparities in recent years, but the relative disparity in infant mortality rates for African Americans and whites is larger now than in the 1980s and the relative disparity in overall death rates is larger than in 1960.

5. The elderly population will grow. Between 2007 and 2017, the nation's baby boom generation will begin to enter the prime retirement years. Currently, there are 5 working-age Americans (ages 18-64) for every person age 65 and older; this ratio will decline to less than 4 by 2017.

6. American families will become more complex. In 2005, 37% of children were born to unmarried parents, continuing a steady upward trend.

7. Fertility may, or may not, remain near replacement levels. Replacement-level fertility is important because it helps to reduce elder-dependency burdens and is suggestive of a nation's ability to maintain itself in the future.

8. More of the nation's children will belong to immigrant families. Even today, more than 1 in 5 children in the United States is an immigrant or the child of an immigrant parent.

9. High levels of immigration will touch all Americans. By 2017, an estimated 50 million Americans – about 15% of the population – will be foreign-born.

10. America will become more diverse as traditional race and ethnic divisions become more blurred. By 2017, the U.S. population will be 17% Hispanic, 13% African American, and 5% Asian, compared with 2007 figures of 15%, 13%, 4%, respectively.

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