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Government Spending on the Elderly
The aging of the American population will be a primary domestic public policy issue during the next decades. According to Census Bureau projections, the proportion of the elderly in the total population will increase from its 2002 level of under 13 percent to slightly more than 16 percent by 2020. Concomitantly, the proportion of the working-age population (20-64) is projected to decline from its current level of about 59 percent to 57.2 percent in 2020. These demographic changes imply a significant growth in the number of beneficiaries in major federal entitlement programs. Apart from this growth, existing program rules and rapidly escalating health care costs are expected to lead to fiscal pressures and to pose challenges for economic growth.
The United States is not alone in facing these challenges; in fact, in most countries with advanced economies, the problem is far more severe. The challenges of coping with an aging population require action in the near term to forestall more difficult choices in the long term. This conference will provide an assessment of the forces that currently drive, and will continue to drive, government spending on retirees. Papers will examine how the retirement and health care of older citizens might be financed and the potential impact of different reform proposals.