Does it cost more to take care of the young or the old?

Marginal Revolution points to the good news in a theory from Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution,

that the decline in fertility rates since the 1960’s means that the burden of caring for the young has decreased dramatically – freeing resources to channel to the old.

MR asks whether there is a utility dimension that ought to be examined – whether it is more fun caring for young or old. Certainly a relevant consideration.

In purely financial terms, the bottom line appears to be that the amount required in 2050 from each worker to support “society’s dependents” will be only .8 percentage points more than in 1965. I’m not so sure.

First, teacher’s unions and the education bureaucracy show no sign of demanding less money, rather per pupil spending seems to continue skyrocketing. So, there may well be less children per worker, but the amount spent per child will likely be much higher and I doubt that the bill per worker will be any lower.

Second, while this does represent a less gloomy picture than most of the doomsday scenarios, the picture is nonetheless gloomier than it ought to be. After 85 (1965-2050) years of economic growth including a technological revolution that led to incredible productivity growth, it seems to me that workers ought to be able to keep MORE not less of their earnings.

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