outside of the developed nations (CIA, 2001).1 Of the 1.5 billion people that the world population will gain by 2020, most will be added to countries in Asia and Africa. By 2015, and for the first time in history, the majority of people, mostly poor, will reside in urban centers, mostly in countries that lack the economic, social, and physical infrastructures to support a burgeoning population.

In the United States, if current trends continue, Hispanic Americans will account for 17 percent of the U.S. population and African Americans will constitute 12.8 percent of the population by 2020. The percentage of whites will decline from the 2000 value of 75.6 percent to 63.7 percent. Looking even further into the future, by 2050, almost half of the U.S. population will be nonwhite (USCB, 2002). Thus, in 2020 and beyond, the engineering profession will need to develop solutions that will serve an increasingly diverse community and will likely need to (and should try to) draw more students from sectors of the community that traditionally have not been well represented in the engineering workforce.

As new knowledge on health and health care is created, shifts in life expectancies will lead to an increase in the number of people living well beyond established retirement ages. With increases in life expectancy, relatively fewer young workers will be available to help pay for the services that older citizens expect to have, and stresses on economic systems will occur. An aging population makes greater demands on the health care system, heightens labor force contractions, and increases political instability (CIA, 2001). The engineering profession of 2020 will have to operate in this environment, which may include “senior” engineers who are willing and able to work, and perhaps compelled to do so because of economic necessity.

In contrast to the aging trend, nations in many politically unstable parts of the world will experience a “youth bulge,” a disproportionate number of 15- to 29-year-olds in the general population; globally, more than 50 percent of the world’s population could be under 18 years old in 2020. Youth-bulge conditions are likely in many regions of recent social and political tension, which are exacerbated by an excess of idle youth unable to find employment. As a consequence, the world could

1  

Developed nations as defined by the World Bank are countries with a gross national product equal to or greater than $10,000 per person.



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