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State's elderly population increasing, study says

by David Bauman - April 13, 2009


A recent report from UConn demographers shows that Connecticut’s rapidly aging population is growing increasingly dependent on a dwindling workforce.

The state’s “dependency ratio” – the ratio of non-working people (ages 0-19 and 65 and older) per 100 workers (ages 20-64) – will increase from 68.5 in 2000 to 70.3 in 2010, according to a report by the Connecticut State Data Center. The Center is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

State projections from the U.S. Census Bureau forecast that by 2010, Connecticut will have the ninth highest percentage of people aged 65 and older in the country.

“These demographic shifts present challenges for both the state and Connecticut employers,” the report says, “because there will be an increasingly smaller population entering the workforce at the same time that an increasingly larger aging population is exiting the workforce and drawing on retirement benefits.”

The report, “Projected Population in 2010 for Congressional Districts in Connecticut,” provides demographic projections for the state’s five Congressional districts in 2010. The Data Center notes that the changing demographics of four of the state’s Congressional Districts – 1, 3, 4, and 5 – are mostly consistent with national trends.

Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group statewide, and are projected to be the largest and youngest group entering the workforce. Asian Americans, however, are the fastest growing minority group in the state.

The ethnic composition of District 2 – most of Eastern Connecticut – differs from statewide trends, with South Asian Indian and mainland Chinese projected to outnumber Hispanics, the report says.

In another divergence from statewide trends, in District 3, African Americans are the largest minority group, whereas in Districts 1, 4, and 5, Hispanics are the largest minority group.

“This report provides public policy makers in Connecticut with important demographic data for the state,” said Orlando Rodriguez, a demographer and manager of the Connecticut State Data Center based at UConn.

“We are releasing the report now to highlight that only one year remains before the next decennial census.”

The rise in the state’s dependency ratio is due primarily to an increasing population of white retirees, age 65 or over, which is occurring at the same time the population of children ages 0-19 is decreasing, the report says.

Independently, data from the State Department of Education show a second consecutive year of decline in the number of children in grades 1-12. Enrollment in grades 1-12 has declined by 8,792 since October 2006. These data are consistent with the projections of the Connecticut State Data Center.

People in the state’s elderly dependent population will be, in many cases, retiring and living on fixed or reduced incomes, the report notes. Although Connecticut in 2000 had the 2nd highest median income in the nation, by 2009 it had dropped to 4th, behind Maryland, New Jersey, and Alaska.

In addition, the increase in the size of the retiree population may be greater than previously forecast, due to the collapse of the residential real estate market. Many retirees rely on their homes for the bulk of their retirement savings. If they can’t sell their homes, then they probably will not leave the state.

“Connecticut public policy makers can anticipate a decrease in the income tax base, with a simultaneous increase in demand and utilization of health services,” the report concludes.

And while the population changes may not be unique to Connecticut, the report warns, “The state will be among the first to experience the changes, due to the size of its elderly population and the decreasing number of children.”

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