The Aging Problem

If you’ve read Albert Brooks’ 2030 (or even if you haven’t), you might be concerned about what an aging population means for America’s future. If so, Henry Aaron’s Longer life spans: boon or burden? (ungated pdf, Dædalus 2006) might provide some relief.

The first step in dealing with the ‘aging problem’ is to avoid public policies that enlarge it.

The second step is to recognize that the U.S. ‘aging problem’ is among the smallest in the developed world.

The third step is to recognize that although population aging will present some fiscal challenges, it is the byproduct of a monumentally beneficial achievement-increased longevity-and an inevitability-declining birth rates.

Longer life spans will doubtless create some problems. But as the old saying goes: Consider the alternative.

Trouble is, it all comes back to politics. Can our system tackle big problems involving powerful, entrenched interests? It’s not so clear. Longevity is a good problem. A dysfunctional political system is not.

[Cross-posted at The Incidental Economist]

Austin Frakt

Austin Frakt is a health economist and an assistant professor at Boston University's School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He blogs at The Incidental Economist.