Empirically based spatial projections of US population age structure consistent with the shared socioeconomic pathways

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Spatially-explicit population projections by age are increasingly needed for understanding bilateral human–environment interactions. Conventional demographic methods for projecting age structure experience substantial challenges at small spatial scales. In search of a potentially better-performing alternative, we develop an empirically based spatial model of population age structure and test its application in projecting US population age structure over the 21st century under various socioeconomic scenarios (SSPs). The model draws on 40 years of historical data explaining changes in spatial age distribution at the county level. It demonstrates that a very good model fit is achievable even with parsimonious data input, and distinguishes itself from existing methods as a promising approach to spatial age structure modeling at the global level where data availability is often limited. Results suggest that wide variations in the spatial pattern of county-level age structure are plausible, with the possibility of substantial aging clustered in particular parts of the country. Aging is experienced most prominently in thinly populated counties in the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains, while cities and surrounding counties, particularly in California, as well as the southern parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic region, maintain a younger population age structure with a lower proportion in the most vulnerable 70+ age group. The urban concentration of younger people, as well as the absolute number of vulnerable elderly people can vary strongly by SSP.






Population, Environmental Risks, and the Climate Crisis (PERCC)