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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press WAPO Thinks We Should Raise the Retirement Age to 75

WAPO Thinks We Should Raise the Retirement Age to 75

Friday, 06 April 2012 05:13

At least it thinks that this is a reasonable position deserving some of the paper's scarce column space. The Post printed a column today by Michael W. Hodin warning about the "inexorable" aging of the population. At one point Hodin asks:

"What if we reimagined and redefined what it means to age? What if, in light of our longer lifespans, 'middle age' were 55 to 75?"

While the piece implies that aging poses some radically new problem for the world, the fact is that populations have been aging for well over a hundred years due to both increases in life expectancy and also declining birth rates. In other words, this is just a continuation of a long trend, not a departure from it.

Furthermore, just as aging of the population in the past has been associated with a rise in the standard of living there is no reason to believe that this will not be the case in the future. If economies can sustain a 2.0 percent rate of productivity growth (slightly less than the average in the U.S. over the last 60 years) then output per worker hour will be almost 120 percent higher in 2050 than it is today.

This increase in productivity would swamp the effect of even the most rapid growth of a population of aged dependent. For example, if we have 3 workers for every retiree today and expect to have 2 workers for every retiree in 2050 (roughly the projected numbers), if retirees have a standard of living that is 75 percent as high as workers then workers and retirees would be still be able to enjoy standards of living that are close to twice their current level in this story. This does not even count the savings from the lower share of young dependents that would be the result of lower birth rates.

The piece also mistakenly implies that fiscal crises facing several European countries and state governments in the United States are due to the aging of the population. Actually, we had a huge economic crisis as a result of the collapse of housing bubbles in the United States and Europe. The resulting downturn is the cause of these fiscal crises. Mr. Hodin was apparently unaware of the economic crisis.

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by skeptonomist, April 06, 2012 9:09
There are actually many other straightforward projections that can be made that are far scarier than those involved with the decrease in birth rate. How about projecting the price of oil and other fossil fuels 40 years into the future? Or projecting the price of fish as their populations become depleted? Resources are not unlimited and even ignoring global warming the economic costs of continually increasing population will be severely felt in the 21st century.
Middle age : same as it ever was
written by Goldilocksisableachblonde, April 06, 2012 11:20
""What if we reimagined and redefined what it means to age? What if, in light of our longer lifespans, 'middle age' were 55 to 75?" "

Life span remaining at age 65 has grown very slowly compared to lifespan at birth. In particular , for males in the bottom half of the income distribution , "middle age" has changed very little over time:


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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.