a committee to enumerate and describe the broad macroeconomic forces that will affect, and in turn be affected by, an aging U.S. population.1 The mandate of the Committee on the Long-Run Macroeconomic Effects of the Aging U.S. Population was to construct a foundation upon which Congress can base its policy debates and also attract popular interest and support for the debate process. The committee was asked to consider a large body of academic research and distill it for congressional and public consumption. The committee also was asked to write its report for a general audience rather than an academic one, much in the spirit of the United Kingdom’s Pension Commission reports published between 2004 and 2006. Those documents, commonly known as the Turner Commission reports, were designed to reach out to nonspecialist readers and to capture the public imagination. Given the asset losses and economic turmoil of recent years, the hope is that many more people in this country will be more receptive to such a discussion now than they were a decade ago and more engaged in it.

In addition to informing the social and political debate, this report also suggests where additional research on the macroeconomics of aging would be useful. The development of recommendations on research was made in response to a request from the Division of Behavioral and Social Research of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a cofunder of this report. The NIA leads the federal government in conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people, and the results of this report should serve to inform NIA’s strategic research plans to improve our understanding of the consequences of an aging society.

This committee was charged with setting out a framework for evaluating the long-run macroeconomic implications of population aging. Specifically, it was asked to carry out the following tasks:

  • Examine the main sources of existing long-run U.S. demographic projections, with particular focus on increasing life expectancy, rising numbers of the “oldest old,” trends in fertility and net immigration, and changing dependency ratios.
  • Identify the degree of uncertainty associated with existing demographic forecasts and how it complicates predictions of economic behavior and macroeconomic performance.
  • Quantify in detail the influence of the baby boom generation on the path and likely end point of long-run trends in dependency ratios.
  • Investigate trends in retirement ages and the prospects for people working longer.
  • Evaluate the implications of projected demographic changes on American living standards, focusing on factors affecting income security in


1This study was mandated as part of P.L. 111–117, The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2010.

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