Statistics predict median age to rise to high point in 2010

By Amanda Martin

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the median American age will rise to almost 39 by the year 2010, the highest point it has ever been estimated to reach.

The median age (meaning the age level at which half of all Americans are older and half are younger) for the people of Illinois was estimated to be 31.7 in 1986 and is expected to rise to 37.6 by 2010, according to census bureau statistics.

The effects of this sudden increase are attributed to the maturing of the post-World War II “baby boomer” generation. However, as that generation moves closer to retirement age, the burden of their support will fall on the shoulders of the younger generations born after them; namely, those Americans born from 1966 and after.

NIU political science Professor Robert Albritton commented that while it is projected that the “baby boomers” will proportionately shift a burden on the population, that effect will not “be felt until the baby boomers leave the workplace, obviously,” largely affecting Social Security. That generation is expected to reach retirement age starting about 2010, Albritton estimated.

“As the population shifts toward the elderly, you’re going to find a younger workforce bearing a greater share of support,” he said.

Jack Skeels, a professor in NIU’s economics department, estimated that what is projected to face younger generations might not be so bad if the rate for social security is kept down. However, Skeels said making projections about how large that financial burden might be is difficult.

He described the federal social security system as an “intergenerational income transfer” in which the current workforce pays taxes to help support the currently retired, as well as provide reserve funds for their own retirement.

“Under Social Security, what’s happened, generally, is that people have been drawing benefits in excess of what they’ve put in,” Skeels said. “Young people have to contribute more than what their benefits are,” he said, and added that most of what younger generations are paying currently is being used up, rather than going into reserves.

Albritton added that the social security system has been “on a good track,” and doesn’t show any need for re-examination “perhaps until 2010 or 2020.”

Skeels also said there were adequate reserves until at least 2010.