As some of us know far too well, forecasting the future with any precision is extremely difficult. There’s at least one exception to the rule, though. Population trends show themselves decades and even centuries in advance. If we know how many people were born in a given year, we can extrapolate what the population will look like far in the future.
On the other hand, demographic forecasting still requires assumptions. At what age will people start having children, and how many will they have? How will new medical advances affect life spans? When will people start working, stop working, and enter retirement? Small changes in any of those assumptions can quickly affect population numbers.
Today’s Outside the Box wrestles with that last question. In the United States we allowed the federal government to set 65 as the retirement age by making Social Security available to most workers at that point in their lives. The retirement age is going up to 67 for the younger members of the Baby Boom generation, but even that may be too “young” to retire in the future.