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The changing population

Population pyramids 1990 and 2000: United States

Population pyramids for the United States show a clearly discernible ageing trend, even over the single decade 1990-2000

Source: US Census Bureau 2002

In contrast to other industrialized countries, particularly in Europe, population growth in North America continues, although growth rates have stayed constant at about 1 per cent over the past three decades and the region's share of global population has declined slightly from 6.2 per cent in 1972 to 5.2 per cent (about 314 million) in 2000 (United Nations Population Division 2001). Although birth rates are low, there is continuous immigration mostly from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. This has also resulted in a more diverse population in the region (Blank 2001).

The population is growing older (see charts). People aged 60 and more accounted for 14 per cent of the population in 1970 and 16 per cent in 2000. By 2025, this is projected to increase to 25 per cent (United Nations Population Division 1998). The gradual 'greying' of the population is a result of declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy as well as the ageing of the post World War II generation. This trend has implications for social security systems and also for global financial flows. As the number of retirees increases, they stop saving and start drawing down their accumulated assets instead.