Population projections show strain in counties keeping quality of life

October 24, 2012, South Dakota State University
According to South Dakota State Demographer Mike McCurry, this age and gender chart of McPherson County offers a look at the future of many South Dakota counties as the population becomes top-heavy with more people who are 85 years old or older.

Traditionally, age demographics in each of South Dakota's 66 counties would resemble a pyramid: wide at the bottom for people in their younger years and narrow at the top for the older population.

The traditional pyramid is what Michael McCurry, South Dakota state demographer, sees in some counties. However, following an eight-month study developing population projections through 2035, the results show a trend for population pyramids that are larger at the top than at the bottom.
"Much of our state is getting older," said McCurry, an assistant professor of sociology and rural studies and director of the Rural Life and Census Data Center at South Dakota State University. "Because of the continued out-migration of young people, in many rural James River communities the largest component of the population is now the elderly. This shows up clearly in the counties' population pyramids, which are a way of showing in a community and it gets more extreme as we project trends into the future."

McCurry's investigation is based on the following trends:

  • Counties are losing population due to out-migration and death.
  • Counties with good jobs are gaining in population.
  • Counties are getting older.
  • remain low.
  • are increasing.
  • Medical progress continues.
  • The in-migration driver is Sioux Falls with new residents moving to the state's largest city.
  • The baby boom cohort is moving into .

McCurry uses the term "dependency ratio" in explaining his work, which was funded through the governor's office to show migration and aging trends across the state.

The dependency ratio is an age-population ratio of those typically not in the labor force (14-and-under and 65-and-over) and those typically in the labor force. The ratio is used to measure the pressure on a productive population. The higher the ratio, the more people there are who depend on others for care.

Defining the healthiest dependency ratio, and the best shape for a population pyramid, is a difficult task, according to McCurry, who indicates that population age distribution will change as the population gets older and what is healthy in one generation may not be healthy in the next. However, he said there are some general guidelines to support his study.

"A dependency ratio of around 50, where there are two working people for every dependent, is a fairly balanced population," he said. "A dependency ratio of 100, in which there is only one working-age person for each dependent, is a community under strain."

Looking at the numbers, McPherson County had the highest dependency ratio of 90.18 in 2010, but that number is projected to rise to 113 in 2035. South Dakota's dependency ratio was 54.06 in 2010 and is projected to be 73.35 in 2035, which is about what Faulk County is today.

"We don't have any inverted pyramids or dependency ratios over 100, but as they arrive, the strain will increase," said McCurry, who pointed out that the trend in South Dakota is to age in place.

"Our young people know that they can go anywhere in the country for employment and they do," he said. "An intriguing statistic is that a high school dropout is almost five times as likely to remain in rural America than a college graduate is to return to rural America.

"The youngsters leave for college and return only to visit, moving to metro centers like Sioux Falls or other metropolitan areas in the country."

McPherson County, noted McCurry, is a good indicator of what some counties might be facing. "In McPherson, we see the future – population pyramids that are top-heavy, showing an increased population of people age 85 and over. Never before has a society had to take care of such a large dependent population."

McCurry emphasized that his study isn't a prediction, but a projection of what will happen if things go on as they are.

"It's that hypothetical average South Dakotan who will find a way to deal with the approaching problem," he said. "In some communities, my hope is that they will attract new, young families to replace those who found that you can go anywhere from here."

According to McCurry, the average South Dakotan in the state is going to be looking at a society where 1 out of 20 South Dakotans will be over 85 and nearly a quarter over 65. In the extreme, a third of the will be over 65.

"It's the last demographic twist of the baby boomers—the first boomer turned 65 last year and the first boomer turns 85 in 2031. From grade schools on, the boomers have changed our social structure, and as they move past active elder status, they will make one more change: needing dependent care."

Explore further: New model shows dramatic global decline in ratio of workers to retired people

Related Stories

New model shows dramatic global decline in ratio of workers to retired people

August 20, 2012
A new statistical model predicts that by 2100 the number of people older than 85 worldwide will increase more than previously estimated, and there will be fewer working-age adults to support them than previously expected.

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.