Sunday, February 5, 2023

In both US and Wisconsin, demographics aren't in our favor now, and in the future

A couple of recent reports have illustrated the demographic challenges that exist in the US and Wisconsin in the early 2020s. Nationwide, the Congressional Budget Office recently released its Demographic Outlook for the next 30 years, and the worst of the COVID pandemic is obvious in these numbers.

You can see the big drop in population growth in 2020 and 2021, and the drops in both immigration, and the births vs deaths difference. And much of that is due to the jump in mortality that we saw in those two years, which adds to an alarming decline in life expectancy in the US that started 8 years ago.
Until recently, mortality rates in the United States have generally declined (meaning that life expectancy has generally risen) since at least the early 20th century. For the most part, mortality rates have decreased more quickly for younger people than for older people. In recent years, though, the rate of decline has slowed, and mortality rates have increased for some groups, particularly younger people. For people ages 15 to 44, those increases have been driven primarily by deaths from suicide and drug overdoses (particularly opioids).

As a result of rising mortality rates, life expectancy at birth declined between 2015 and 2017, the first decreases in that metric since 1993. After increasing slightly from 2018 to 2019, life expectancy fell again in 2020, largely because of increases in mortality from COVID-19, unintentional injuries (including drug overdoses), heart disease, homicide, and diabetes.
And another report from last week showed how this trend is especially true in Wisconsin.

Over the last two decades, death rates for young and middle-aged adults in Wisconsin have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, older people in the state are dying at lower rates than ever before....

For younger adults in the state, the report found the overarching reason for higher death rates is drug overdose. Over the last two decades, overdose deaths made up more than half of the mortality increase for Wisconsinites ages 20-49.

In 2021 alone, there were 1,427 opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin, according to data from the state Department of Health Services, up from 1,227 opioid-related deaths in 2020.
In addition, A Policy Forum researcher points out that mortality is another area where Wisconsin has horrendous racial disparities.

This is obviously a problem in a state that saw people of working age population (ages 25-54) move out of the state in the 2010s, while having an increasing number of people ages 60+ that will be exiting the work force, and will need to be served in the future.

Another demographic issue in both Wisconsin and America is the decline in birth rates, which the CBO notes has been ongoing for the last 15 years, but has bottomed out in the 2020s. Interestingly, we have also reached a point where American women are going to have more kids after age 30 than they do before then.
CBO projects fertility on the basis of its assessment of historical trends and other factors. For the 20 years before the 2007–2009 recession, the total fertility rate was 2.02 children per woman, on average. After peaking at 2.12 in 2007, the rate generally fell, largely because of lower fertility rates among women age 24 or younger. The rate equaled 1.64 births per woman in 2020 and rose slightly to 1.66 in 2021 (the most recent year for which data were available when the projections were made).

In CBO’s projections, the total fertility rate remains at 1.66 births per woman through 2023 and then rises as fertility rates among women ages 30 to 49 increase. By 2030, the fertility rate is projected to be 1.75 births per woman, where it remains through 2053. That rate is below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman—the fertility rate required for a generation to exactly replace itself in the absence of immigration.

And that sub-replacement rate item shows up in the first chart I gave you, where you can see the country's population growth goes below the increase from immigration around, as total deaths start to outpace births around 2040.

These demographic changes tell me that we can't count on a constantly growing population to drive growth in coming years, nor should we expect our workforce participation rates to ever be as high as they were 20 years ago (when Boomers were in their 40s and 50s). And in states like Wisconsin, we need to be concentrating on making our state attractive to younger people to locate through competitive wages and opprtunities for people starting out their careerts, and progressive social policies that don't drive away talent. Then we need to keep them and their famnilies with strong schools and a high quality of life.

Unfortuantely, this is NOT what Republicans in the State Legislature want.

Vote accordingly, folks. And vote based on the demographic and economic reality that exists in the 2020s, and beyond.

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