The ratio has declined in recent decades to 33 youths per 100 persons in the working ages. As the figure shows, variations in immigration have relatively little effect on the youth dependency ratio because they tend to change the numbers of persons in both the youth and the working-age years.39 Under the medium net immigration assumption, the youth dependency ratio will decline slightly to 32 per 100 in 2050. Under the low or high net immigration assumptions, the youth dependency ratio will range from 32 to 33.40

Elderly Dependency

As the population has aged, the elderly dependency ratio has been rising for the past three decades. Regardless of the level of immigration assumed, this ratio will increase substantially (Figure 3.6). From 20 elderly persons per 100 in the working years, the ratio will rise to over 29 per 100 by about 2050. Although immigration will not offset these notable increases in the elderly dependency ratio, it will influence the eventual level. Under the low net immigration assumption, the elderly dependency ratio will increase to 30 in 2050. Under the high immigration assumption, the elderly dependency ratio will increase to 27 in 2030.41

Overall Dependency

These two dependency ratios—for youth and the elderly—can be combined into a single dependency ratio. However, it is important to remember that such a combination can be misleading. For example, current estimates indicate that the governmental budgetary costs of adding another older person is about four times higher than that of adding another child.

In 1995, there were 53 people in age groups that typically do not work for every 100 persons of working age in the United States (see Figure 3.7). Changes in the dependency ratios will be similar for all immigration scenarios until about 2025. Under the medium assumption, this ratio is projected to decline for the next 15 years, to a low of 48 in 2010, then increase, reaching 61 in 2050. The

39  

Although immigration is not a critical determinant of the youth dependency ratio, higher levels of immigration tend to produce a population with more children per 100 persons in the working years. On the other hand, a future population with zero immigration would have slightly fewer youths per 100 persons in the working years.

40  

Altering the net immigration assumption has little effect on the youth dependency ratio. Under the zero or very high net immigration assumptions, the youth dependency ratio will range from 30 to 34 per 100.

41  

If zero immigration is assumed, the ratio will peak at 34 per 100 in 2035, before diminishing somewhat to 32 per 100 in 2050. At the other extreme, should very high immigration prevail, the ratio will peak at 27 per 100 in 2030, almost 20 percent less than that associated with zero immigration, and diminish to 27 per 100 in 2050.



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