Special Report

The Future of the American People: 10 Key Milestones Coming This Century

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America will look a lot different by 2060 than it does today. The demographic composition of the country is going to be significantly altered as a result of the aging baby boom generation, falling birth rates, and continued immigration, with the population reaching new milestones in the nation’s history. (These are the states where the population has grown the most since 1880.)

To determine the major demographic turning points of the 21st century, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections program, International Database, and 2018 paper “Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060” by Vespa, Jonathan, Lauren Medina, and David M. Armstrong. We assembled 10 turning points that underscore some of the major demographic trends shaping America over the next 40 years.

One of the largest drivers of demographic change in the United States is the aging baby boomer generation. Currently, baby boomers constitute 20.6% of the population. As that cohort ages, the median age of the population will rise, and by 2028, one in every five Americans will be 65 years and older. 

By 2034, the number of 65 and older Americans will outnumber the population of Americans 17 and younger. The age dependency ratio of the 65 and older population (65+ population / 18 to 64 population) may create more demand for government programs such as Social Security and may require higher taxation of the working-age population and have other economic implications.

Falling birth rates will also define major demographic trends of the coming decades. As births per capita fall and deaths per capita increase, the rate of natural population change will decline significantly, and by 2030, net migration will overtake natural increase as the primary driver of U.S. population growth. Due to the increased impact of immigration, the share of the U.S. population that is foreign-born will reach 14.9% by 2028 — the largest share since 1850. (These are the states that will grow the most in the next 20 years.)

Click here to see the biggest population milestones likely to occur this century

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1. 2028
> Milestone: One in every five Americans will be 65 years or older

The 65-and-older cohort will increase from its current 17.7% share of the U.S. population to 20.0% in 2028.

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2. 2028
> Milestone: The foreign-born share of the U.S. population will surpass its historical high of 14.8% in 1850

While the foreign-born share of the U.S. population fell in the first half of the 20th century, it is projected to continue to rise throughout the 21st century and reach 14.9% by 2028 — the largest share since 1850.

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3. 2030
> Milestone: Immigration will take over natural increase as the primary driver of U.S. population growth

Historically natural population change has contributed more to population growth than net immigration — 0.40% growth due to natural increase versus 0.30% due to net migration in 2021. By 2030, however, growth due to net migration will surpass that of natural increase, contributing to a 0.30% increase in the U.S. population, while natural growth contributes a 0.29% increase.

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4. 2034
> Milestone: Older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history

As the baby boom generation ages and birth rates decline, the population of adults 65 years and over will reach 77.0 million by 2034, outnumbering the under 18 population of 76.5 million.

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5. 2045
> Milestone: Nigeria will surpass the United States as the third largest country in the world

The United States will fall from third to fourth largest country by 2045, while Nigeria will rise from the sixth largest country to the third largest.

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6. 2045
> Milestone: Non-Hispanic whites will no longer constitute the majority of the population

The non-Hispanic white population will fall from its current share of 58.9% of the U.S. population to 49.7%.

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7. 2047
> Milestone: One in every four Americans will be of Hispanic origin

The Hispanic population will grow from 64.8 million in 2022 to 95.2 million in 2047, rising from 19.2% of the population to 25.0%.

Source: LeoPatrizi / E+ via Getty Images

8. 2054
> Milestone: U.S. life expectancy will reach 85.0 years

According to projections released before the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy will rise from the current projected figure of 80.6 years to 85.0 years by 2054.

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9. 2056
> Milestone: The population of Americans 100 years and older will surpass 500,000

As the baby boom generation continues to age, the population of Americans 100 years and older is projected to rise from 103,774 in 2022 to 505,951 in 2056.

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10. 2058
> Milestone: The U.S. population will surpass 400 million people

The U.S. population is projected to rise from 337.3 million in 2022 to 401.3 million by 2058.

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