Progress: Beyond 2020, toward 2060

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Long-run forecasts are always, at best, highly speculative. Policy actions and disruptive changes will have a magnified effect as the forecast period expands. Long-run forecasts should always be view skeptically. That said, there are some things that are fairly predictable. Most notably, age progresses at the same rate for all people and cohorts that are alive today can be reasonably projected through their lifetime.

1. The decade of the 2020s will see an even greater increase in the 65 and older population than the 2010s. From 2010 to 2030, Minnesota will add nearly 600,000 people age 65 and older. By 2030, the biggest increases in the 65 and older population will be over. After 2030, the elderly population will grow at a much slower rate as the baby boomer effect plays itself out.

2. Long-term care will be a challenging issue as the leading edge of the baby boomer generation moves into its late 70s in the 2020s. Long-term care is extremely expensive. Simple solutions, such as turning to children or other family members to provide care for older family members will prove largely fruitless. Lower fertility rates, family disruptions, high rates of female labor force participation (women have historically been the main caregivers for the elderly), and high rates of geographic mobility mean that many older people will have no one available locally to assist with their care.

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3. Aging of the population, coupled with rising energy prices, may contribute to a movement back to the central cities or inner-ring suburbs at the expense of suburbs built from 1990 to 2008. In other words, “urban sprawl” may end or diminish. Differentials in housing prices could moderate the trend to re-centralization.

4. Population growth in most of the world is expected to decline. Rising educational levels and urbanization are already lowering birth rates in much of the world, especially Asia and Latin America. Slower worldwide population growth could reduce immigration, dampening population growth in the U.S. and Minnesota. However, differences in economic opportunity in different countries will still produce substantial amounts of international migration.

5. Worldwide aging and rising income will increase the demand for higher quality food, while continued population increases will place increasing demand on basic food items. These trends will combine to place upward pressure on commodity prices, most notably food and energy. Any adverse crop events in critical agriculture areas will place even more upward pressure on commodity prices. This may improve Minnesota’s competitive position.

6. Many of the fastest growing areas of the nation today are in water deficit areas. This includes both the Southwest as well as the Southeast regions of the nation. Unless a disruptive technology alters the current course, growth in many of the states in these regions will be constrained by 2020. Minnesota, with a more ample supply of this vital and most precious resource, will be in a more competitive position for economic and population growth, but only if water resources are carefully preserved and managed.

— Minnesota State Demographic Center, report “The Long Run Has Become the Short Run.”