Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


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The New Demographic Transition: Most Gains in Life Expectancy Now Realized Late in Life

Working Paper

Karen Eggleston - Director of the Stanford Asia Health Policy Program and Center Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University
Victor R. Fuchs - Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Economics and of Health Research and Policy, and Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute of Economic Policy and Research at Stanford University

Issued by
Asia Health Policy Program working paper # 29, June 11, 2012

The share of increases in life expectancy realized after age 65 was only about 20 percent at the beginning of the 20th century for the United States and 16 other countries at comparable stages of development; but that share was close to 80 percent by the dawn of the 21st century, and is almost certainly approaching 100 percent asymptotically. This new demographic transition portends a diminished survival effect on working life. For high-income countries at the forefront of the longevity transition, expected lifetime labor force participation as a percent of life expectancy is declining. Innovative policies are needed if societies wish to preserve a positive relationship running from increasing longevity to greater prosperity.

Published August 2012 in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.