The Associated Press
In this June 21, file photo, commuters walk through a corridor in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, in New York. The United States will add 79 million people in the next 40 years, but growth will slow as the U.S population gets older, according to new projections presented Oct. 24 at a meeting of demographers.
The Associated Press

In this June 21, file photo, commuters walk through a corridor in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, in New York. The United States will add 79 million people in the next 40 years, but growth will slow as the U.S population gets older, according to new projections presented Oct. 24 at a meeting of demographers.

By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press

The U.S. population will grow older and more diverse over the next four decades, according to new Census Bureau projections presented Thursday at a meeting of demographers.

As the U.S. median age increases, there will be a smaller ratio of workers in the labor force able to pay the payroll tax that funds Social Security payments to people of retirement age. In 15 years, the number of people over age 65 will be larger than the number of children for the first time in U.S. history, according to the presentation at a Southern Demographic Association meeting in New Orleans.

A “demographic tidal wave” is one big reason for the nation’s expected aging and the eventual drop in natural population increase from births outpacing deaths. That wave is the Baby Boomers, born between the end of World War Two and around the time of the American invasion of The Beatles.

“The youngest Baby Boomers are 55 and older now, said Allison Plyer, a demographer attending the meeting. “In 10 years, they will be 65 and older, and as those folks pass away over the decades, that’s a very larger section of our population reaching an age where they will likely experience mortality,” Plyer said.

As the U.S. grows older, it will also become more diverse, with children leading the way. By next year, no single race group alone will make up more than half of U.S. children, the projections show.

Although non-Hispanic whites currently are a majority in the U.S., their numbers will dip below 50% of the population in 40 years, declining from 199 million next year to 179 million in 2060, the projections show.

“Immigrants do continue to fill in the ranks of working-age population and workforce as the Baby Boomers age,” Plyer said. “The most likely people to replace them will be people of color, particularly Latinos who are already here and have children.”

People who identify as two or more races will be the fastest-growing group in the next 40 years, with their population expanding as births outpace deaths.

The U.S. is expected to cross the 400 million-person threshold by 2058, as it adds 79 million more people in 40 years, but annual growth will slow down. The U.S. has about 326 million people today.

Population growth, currently 2.3 million people per year, is expected to slow to 1.6 million people a year by 2060.