I have been fascinated with demographics ever since reading Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 “The Population Bomb” in high school. In a February column, I discussed the enrollment cliff facing higher education. There was a precipitous drop in the birth rate during the 2008 depression, and college administrators were preparing for a steep enrollment decline around 2025. That conversation got buried during the COVID-19 hysteria.

Last week, Moscow’s world-famous labor market analytics firm, Emsi, released a free, 41-page e-book, “The Demographic Drought.” I recommend it to everyone (bit.ly/3b7teIE). Emsi examined demographic, higher education and labor market data, exploring how COVID-19 hastened our future.

The data first shows how coronavirus and government policies accelerated the exit of baby boomers from the work force, with more than 3 million retiring last year rather than the usual 2 million. That gap cannot be filled because, around 1970, the U.S. fertility rate fell below the 2.1-percent replacement rate. There are simply not enough members of Generation X and millennials to make up for the loss of boomers in the workforce. By 2028, there will be a deficit of 6 million U.S. workers. And using United Nations population predictions, by 2100 there will be two Americans financially dependent upon each worker. That 2100 timeline has since been accelerated because the U.S. birth rate fell an additional 4 percent during the 2020 pandemic.

Recommended for you