Working Age Population Demographics: The one place where the US is okay?

One aspect of demographics that is often overlooked is the change in the working age population, the population between the ages of 20 and 65.

Source: UN Medium Variant Projections, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision


In the above graph, the US looks like it is pretty well situated compared to Japan and Western Europe. Japan’s economy, in addition to its other problems, needs to overcome one percent of shrinkage in its work force each year. Incidentally, this means that the nominal 3% GDP target recently announced by the government is in reality more of a 4% nominal GDP per worker target.  Australia, New Zealand and Canada (Not pictured) are in pretty good positions, with their steady immigration policies preventing their working age population from shrinking.


The United States looks like Canada and New Zealand, but the composition of workers is quite different. Australia and Canada’s immigration laws encourage educated immigrants. In the United States, the most fecund populations and the largest share of immigrants are not educated, but are instead composed largely of illegal immigrants who are periodically granted amnesty or their children who are natural born citizens.  Data from the US Census shows that the earnings gap per person is currently relatively significant:



Total Money Income in 2008 (Mean)

White, Nonhispanic


Black Alone


Hispanic Alone


Asian Alone



The Census’s constant migration model of the US population shows that white non-Hispanic working age group is actually shrinking:




Assuming that the wage differential between ethnic groups does not shrink to a negligible size, this adds up to a working age demographic picture that isn’t quite as rosy for the United States when compared with Canada and Australia. Even so, it is still in better position than Europe and Japan who will have have to run the red queen's race to keep their economy the same size.