October 23, 2021

New Report and Data: The Aging U.S. and Global Population

Note: The full text report from the U.S. Census Bureau containing the data below will be available soon. One data source, the U.S. Census International Data Base is available here.

From the U.S. Census:

America’s 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, ballooning from 48 million to 88 million by 2050. However, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will age at a slower rate compared with other countries.

Worldwide, the 65-and-over population will more than double to 1.6 billion by 2050, according to An Aging World: 2015. This new report from the Census Bureau examines the continuing global aging trend and projected growth of the population age 65 and over, with an emphasis on the differences among world regions.

In 2015, 14.9 percent of the U.S. population was 65 or over.


“The United States was the 48th oldest country out of 228 countries and areas in the world in 2015,” said Wan He, a demographer on population aging research at the Census Bureau. “Baby boomers began reaching age 65 in 2011 and by 2050 the older share of the U.S. population will increase to 22.1 percent. However, the U.S. will fall to 85th because of the more rapid pace of aging in many Asian and Latin American countries.”

Japan is the current oldest country in the world and will retain that position in 2050.

“However, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are projected to overtake Germany, Italy and Greece for second, third and fourth place by 2050,” He said.

Some countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia and Cuba, will experience a quadrupling of their oldest-old population, those 80 and over, from 2015 to 2050.

While Europe is still the oldest region today and is projected to remain so by 2050, aging in Asia and Latin America has accelerated in recent decades. Asia is also notable for leading the world in the size of the older population with 341 million people 65 and older. On the other hand, Africa remained young in 2015, where only 3.5 percent of the total population was 65 and over.

Other highlights:


Labor force participation among the older population continues to rise in many developed countries, yet remains highest in low-income countries.

The last recession had a major impact on unemployment rates and financial assets among many older people in more developed countries. However, the trend of rising labor force participation rates among the population age 60 and older in these countries was not halted.


Eligible ages to receive pension benefits vary widely across countries, yet tend to lump at particular ages, such as 60 and 65.

A number of European countries and the United States are gradually increasing their age eligible to receive a full public pension to 67.

More than 90 percent of the older population receives a pension in more developed countries, such as Japan, the United States, Australia and Italy.

In contrast, public pensions cover less than a third of the older population in China and a 10th of those in India, the two countries with a total population of more than a billion each.

Public pensions can drastically lower poverty rates for the older population. In Latin America and Caribbean countries, for instance, the average poverty rate of those receiving a pension is 5.3 percent, one-fifth of the average poverty rate of those not receiving pensions (25.8 percent).

Life expectancy and health

Global life expectancy at birth was 68.6 years in 2015 and is projected to rise to
76.2 years in 2050.

The population age 80 and over has been growing faster than the population of people between ages 65 and 79 because of increasing life expectancy at older ages.

Among the older population worldwide, noncommunicable diseases are the main health concern. In low-income countries, many in Africa, the older population faces a considerable burden from both noncommunicable and communicable diseases.

Risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, insufficient consumption of vegetables and fruit, and low levels of physical activity, directly or indirectly contribute to the global burden of disease. Changes in risk factors have been observed, such as a decline in tobacco use in some high-income countries, with the majority of smokers worldwide now living in low- and middle-income countries.

Increasing obesity, in addition to being underweight, has been associated with increased mortality at older ages.


Declining fertility levels have been the main propeller for population aging, although rates of fertility decline vary by region and country.

Currently, the global fertility rate is near or below the 2.1 replacement level in all world regions except Africa.

Long-Term Care

Unpaid caregiving by family members and friends remains the main source of long-term care for older people worldwide.

Informal care may substitute for formal long-term care in some circumstances in Europe, particularly when low levels of unskilled care are needed.

The report contains statistics from the Census Bureau’s International Data Base and other data sources, such as Census Bureau population projections, World Bank, International Labour Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. It looks at health and economic characteristics of the older population throughout the world in addition to its growth and demographic dynamics.

Direct to Complete Report Highlights/News Release

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.