Last week we kicked off a blog series on this year’s Kids Count commentary, “A Changing Nebraska: How demographic shifts impact children.” We started with a look at what Nebraska looks like right now and how Nebraska’s population is expected to grow to 2050. As the state’s population changes, trends are expected to emerge. One of which is an overall aging of the population.
During the Baby Boom of 1946-1964, Nebraska experienced rapid growth, especially in the number of children. Moving through the decades following the birth of the Baby Boom, a clear shift in the age of the population becomes apparent as the Baby Boomers age. Population growth in Nebraska in the near future is expected to be slow, as the Baby Boomers — and their kids (the Baby Boom Echo) age — the average age of the state’s population will continue to increase.
Beginning in 1980, Nebraska’s population was relatively young. As time advances the population becomes older. In the graphic, the population by age gradually moves from being mostly young people, to nearly an even distribution across age groups. This means that the population will experience little growth.
This all means that as Baby Boomers and the Echo retire, the workforce will need to replace them, but there will be a smaller pool of people to take on vacated jobs, and a smaller pool of people paying the taxes necessary to support public programs and social services. In order to ensure that vacated jobs are filled, it is important that Nebraska’s kids are prepared to be successful in the workforce and trained for the specific jobs that will need to be filled, especially for the anticipated influx in healthcare needs of an aging population.
Elderly people and young children are at a higher risk of poverty than other age groups. With an increased amount of people who are 65 and older, an increased amount of funding and social services will be needed. This funding may come at the expense of services for the young. With two groups at high need and higher amounts of money being funneled into government entitlement programs for the elderly, the question of where our social service and social welfare dollars and other resources go needs to be answered. Does one group become more heavily disadvantaged for the benefit of the other? Are both groups hampered? Do we find a balance between spending on the young and old?
Voices for Children recommends that this spending imbalance between the elderly and the young be addressed. We understand that it is important to continue to take care of the elderly population, but the increasing pressure that the aging population puts on the federal budget decreases the funding available to help vulnerable children. The federal government should increase dedicated mandatory streams of revenue available to children, especially related to early childhood and K-12 education.