ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT
The report seeks to consider how well prepared we are as a nation for population aging and to discuss the ramifications of underlying trends in demography and health. Because aging of the U.S. population is still largely in the future, the committee was careful to consider how certain we can be about future developments. The committee also considers some possible policy responses to population aging and trade-offs among them.
Chapter 2 has a dual purpose. Because aging has many effects on both the private and public sectors, it is easy to get lost in a mountain of detail and to lose sight of the big picture. Chapter 2 initially provides a framework for thinking about the broad consequences of population aging and the options we have for dealing with changing demographic realities. The chapter also serves to synthesize the committee’s deliberations, weaving the main points from subsequent chapters into a coherent whole that summarizes the committee’s primary findings.
The demographic trends that give rise to population aging are explained in Chapter 3. Particular attention is given to the debate about the future trajectory of life expectancy in the United States. The population projections of the committee presented in the chapter incorporate assumptions that are somewhat different from those underlying official U.S. government projections. The chapter also illustrates age patterns of consumption and income as a means of understanding why population aging matters to the nation’s fiscal health.