The findings show an increasing economic importance of
foreign-born residents in the U.S. as Congress ponders an
overhaul of immigration laws. Younger immigrants who arrive in
the U.S. typically find jobs and start families.
Changes in the world's demographics ``could alter the
distribution of global economic power over the coming decades,''
said Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew.
``Demographically, at least, America is poised to maintain its
global status while many European and East Asian nations shrink
either in absolute or relative terms. India and several African
nations may benefit from the projected demographic trends,''
Kochhar said. ``Immigration is the main reason why population
growth in the U.S. will be much greater than in Europe or East
Just 26 percent of US-Americans said aging in their country is a
``major problem,'' according to the report released Thursday.
Concern about aging was highest in Asia—87 percent in Japan, 79
percent in South Korea and 67 percent in China. In Europe, more
than half of those surveyed in Germany and Spain pointed to
increases in the older population as a major problem in their
US-Americans were relatively optimistic that they will have an
adequate standard of living in their old age. About 63 percent
of those surveyed said they were ``very confident'' or
``somewhat confident'' about their retirement security. They
ranked near the top along with other countries with younger
populations or strong economies: China, Brazil, Nigeria, South
Africa, Kenya and Pakistan.
US-Americans' confidence about retirement security may not
always match up with reality. Polling last year by the AP-NORC
Center for Public Affairs Research found that most
US-Americans over 40 underestimated the costs of their likely
long-term care needs and were not doing much to prepare for
According to the Pew survey, retirement security confidence was
lowest in Japan, Italy, and Russia.
Because of high rates of immigration, the United States has one
of the higher birth rates in the developed world. Its population
is expected to rise by 89 million, to 401 million, from 2010 to
2050, with immigrants and their descendants accounting for about
80 percent of the increase.
Still, immigration to the U.S. would have to be 15 times
the present rate for the proportion of older people to younger
people to remain constant, rather than to increase.
China, currently the most populous nation at 1.4 billion, is
projected to add only 25 million people by 2050.
Global aging is driven by social and economic factors. Compared
to previous decades, marriage rates in general have fallen and
birth rates have dropped, due in part to the development of
contraceptives. Also playing a role in declining births are the
rising costs of raising children, increases in women who attend
college and are in the labor force as well as the reduced need
for children to care for parents in old age.
Globally, the median age will rise from 29 to 36 by midcentury.
That's faster than the U.S. increase from 37 to 41.
Asked who should care for the elderly, people in 13 of the 21
nations pointed mostly to government, with public opinion
ranging as high as 63 percent in Russia. These countries were
generally less confident about their future standards of living.
The U.S., South Korea, Germany, and Britain were the only
countries surveyed in which more than a third of respondents
said the elderly bear the most responsibility for their own
well-being, as opposed to government or their families.
Widespread aging will have a financial impact.
Public pension spending as a share of the gross domestic product
is expected to rise in all surveyed countries except México
and India from now until 2050, the report said. South Korea,
China, Brazil and Russia are projected to see big jumps in
spending, while pension expenditures in the U.S. will remain
modest due to less-rapid population aging as well as government
efforts to limit spending, such as by raising the retirement
The Pew study was based on an analysis of United Nations
population data as well as Pew surveys conducted in 21 countries
from March 3 to April 21, 2013. The Pew surveys had 22,425
responses. The countries were Argentina, Brazil, Britain, China,
Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya,
Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea,
Spain, Turkey, and the United States.
The margin of error for the global survey varies across
countries, from plus or minus 3.1 percentage points in Spain to
7.7 percentage points in Turkey.
Online: Pew Research Center: