VERMONT SENIOR POPULTION GROWTH—A CLOSER LOOK
Last decade Vermont Governor Jim Douglas and then UVM President James Fogler regularly referred to the growth of Vermont seniors’ population as the major driving force in Vermont for the foreseeable future—well the future arrived and now and the dimensions of population change for the 2000-2030 period become even more pronounced than expected. Census estimates 3,215 more seniors each year 2000-2030.
Census described the numbers for Vermont senior growth 2000-2030—doubling their share of total Vermont population to 24% with the 65-and-over age residents rising from 77,510 in 2000 to an estimated 173,930 in 2030, up 124%. To bring this into perspective this 96,430 Census growth estimate amounts to 3,215 more seniors each year, more than three times the Census growth estimate for the entire state during the three-year period 2000-2013 total of 889.
The statewide senior population growth every three years tops the total population of Montpelier, or in two years a Burlington ward.
The senior population growth in Vermont is home-grown, almost exclusively the growth of our existing population in 2000 moving into the senior range, the longer life expectancy thanks to improved lifestyle and medical gains in addition to the key demographic driver, the baby boom population bubble hitting retirement years.
Meanwhile, changes in the under-65 age population remains dead in the water. Census probably overestimated the growth of Vermont population overall, 17% to 711,000 2000-2030, in great part because of the “Great Recession” hit in 2008 with the U.S. birth rates dropping to levels not seen since the 1930s Great Depression.
The Vermont senior population bomb-let does not exist in isolation. A more recent Census 50 year projection extending to 2065 nationally shows an under 65 age population growth of 20% while the over 65 numbers increase 80%
So almost halfway to 2030, Vermont estimated population growth is only 2.9% (2013 Census estimate) versus the projection for 2000-2030 of 17% growth with the State on a trajectory right now of about a third of the projected rate. The baby bust and low net migration to the State represent the two key factors of likely small under 65 age population change and right now it is fair to conclude the under 65 age group overall is in decline since 2000.
So what about the population under 65? Here even the optimistic 30 year estimate of the Census—a likely overestimate—really looks dismal. The Census estimated under 18 age group dropping 10,564 or 2.4% per decade 2000-2030 with the 2030 projection of 136,959. The experience of declining school enrollments continues for at least one to two decades if this trend continues. And the prime working age population 18-64? Yes, this estimate number does rise by 17,374 2000-2030 but still not very much in the Census estimation—2.3% each decade to 400,968 in 2030. Again, this number probably represents an over estimation because of the Great Recession and the overall 2000-2013 period when net migration, a source of young and younger working age population growth clearly now remains way behind the assumption in the Census estimated for 2000-2030 calculated in 2005.
The Census projections along with overestimation of the under 65 population suggest careful examination of housing and transportation dieections for Vermont over and above a very startling new expectation of a flatlined labor force for at least two decades to come.