Census and Social Security

Bruce Krasting's picture
The census numbers were a surprise to me. Our population is growing at a
much smaller rate than I had thought. Less than 1% per annum,
the lowest since the 30s. My first thought was that this was probably
not anticipated 10 years ago. So I looked up one credible source for
population forecasts. The Social Security Trust Fund lives and breathes
this stuff. I looked at the 2000 base case (intermediate) assumptions
for population in 2010. I was very surprised to see that they hit the
nail on the head. Good for them.

Just for the heck of it I looked up the 2010 SSTF report to see if the
new forecasts were on track with the old ones. Then I got confused.

While the SSA correctly forecast what our population would be a decade
ago, they are currently overstating the population by 7,500,000 people.
That comes to a 2.4% overstatement as to just how many of us there are
walking around. I found that interesting.

There is a direct correlation to total economic activity and population.
The more people, the more GDP. The more mouths to feed, clothes to
wear, transportation, shelter, healthcare the greater the output will
be. The number varies from country to country so there is no definitive
relationship between populations and GDP. For example, China has a
population of ~1.3b and a GDP of ~5T, therefore the GDP per person is
$3,557. This number is much higher in the USA. Based on the census
number and current GDP the US has a ratio of $47,300 of GDP per person.
Germany has a population/GDP ratio of $41,000.

I don’t want to suggest that that if there were one additional person in
the US that GDP would grow by $47K. It doesn’t work like that. But it
is absolutely correct to say that if population were higher, GDP would
be higher as well. Population drives demand.

Back to SSA. What are they going to do with their population estimates?
The answer is they have to take them down. When they do, they will have
to adjust ALL of their numbers. The have to adjust both short and
long term estimates. Given that we now know that our population is
smaller than SSA had assumed and is growing at a smaller rate, there are
significant implications to the retirement system. All of those implications are negative.

From the census data alone SSA will be forced to conclude A) the date that the system goes negative is not 2037 and B)
the date that SSA goes permanently cash flow negative is not 2015. Just
from the census data I am now forecasting that the date that the SSA
goes permanently cash negative was 2008. We will never see a return to a
cash surplus. The 2037 drop-dead date will be shortened by a minimum of
5 years. I say they system explodes in 2030. These are very material changes.

Is the population data a game changer on the debate that is now raging
on the fate of SSA? I think it is. If you were worried about the
long-term solvency of the system and its impact on the broad economy
before, you should be much more worried about those things after the
census report.

In 2000 SSA correctly forecast the population for 2010. In the same 2000
report SSA forecast a CASH surplus at SS for 2010 of $93 billion. The
actual result of 2010 will be a deficit of $45 billion. The $140b miss
is largely a function of the lasting impact of the 08 recession and the
continuing high unemployment. That big miss is also function of our
population growing at a smaller rate than what had been assumed.

At so many levels we are fooling ourselves as to how wealthy our country
is and how quickly we should be growing. The estimates we use are out
of whack with reality and therefore we have this false belief that we
can and should be able to just grow our way out of trouble. This
fundamental belief is part of the budgetary policy driven to stimulate
higher growth. It is part of the Feds thinking in their effort to push
against the string with policies like QE. Those policies will not
achieve the desired effects. The reason is that there is less of us
around then has been believed. Slow population growth will trump any
stimulus Congress or the Fed throw at it.

If we did in fact have an extra 7.5mm people in the country and they
contributed to economic activity by the $47k multiplier it would
translate into additional GDP of ~$353 billion. A very big number. That
is approximately equal to the GDPs of Austria, Norway, Taiwan or Saudi
Arabia. It is double that of Chile. The states of Virginia, Washington
and Massachusetts have similar populations. On a pure population
comparison the 7.5mm is equal to the entire population of countries like
Israel, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

It will be interesting to see if D.C. recognizes the slow population
growth in the US and ignores the implications. My guess is that that
they will. But they will do so at our collective peril. There is an
assumption in Washington that we can simply grow our way out of our
problems. The census report says we can’t.


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treemagnet's picture

Combined with a little Harry Dent and it all points in the same direction.

tom's picture

Here's the answer, from page 86 of the SSTF 2010 report:

The starting Social Security area population for January 1, 2008, is

based on the Census Bureau’s estimate of the residents of the 50 States and

D.C., and U.S. Armed Forces overseas, with several adjustments. These

adjustments reflect mortality assumptions for the aged population since 2000

that are consistent with Medicare and Social Security data, estimates of the

net undercount in the 2000 census, and the inclusion of U.S. citizens living

abroad (including residents of U.S. territories) and non-citizens living abroad

who are insured for Social Security benefits. This starting population was

then projected using assumed rates of birth, death, marriage, and divorce;

and assumed levels of net immigration.

tom's picture

The census bureau's population estimates do count illegal aliens, so that is not the reason for the discrepancy.

Bruce Krasting's picture

Census is supposed to capture this. Of course they don't. SSA definitly captures some of this also.

Say your right. The difference of 7.5mm is illegals. There is something wrong with that conclusion as well.

thegr8whorebabylon's picture

I don't know about that, Bruce.  A 0.5% cash/underground economy sounds about right to me.

And Canada pays for babies too, but not enough.

DosZap's picture

Why do you think they want the Borders OPEN?

We need workers,taxpayers, and a more diverse ethnic America.

When you murder 50 million Americans since '73, you have to get taxpayers somewhere.But, I forgot, the federales no thinkee in advance.

Viva La Raza,putex!!.

Common_Cents22's picture

demographics matter a great deal.  The top of the housing market coincided precisely with the peak of the baby boomers demos age for housing.   It will be a great battle with the aging boomers voting themselves more benefits.  Will their demand for investment income provide an even bigger boom in debt issuance by government?   Or will the demand drive up rates?

medicare and long term care will mushroom even bigger.


Problem Is's picture


Some one who gets it...

tom's picture

The census bureau's last estimation of US population before the new census was 310.6 million residents, 311.0 million including overseas armed forces, as of Nov. 1, 2010.

See here: http://www.census.gov/popest/national/NA-EST2009-01.html

So I think there must have been a reason for the SSA's 316m number that you're missing, Bruce. The SSA wouldn't have just made up its own population estimates 5m bigger than the census bureau's. Maybe SSA is counting the overseas territories?

Problem Is's picture

SSA Is More Accurate:
The SSA uses hard data, payroll contribution and SSA citizen accounts... Census Bureau uses thumb up their ass BLS type procedures...

  1. SSA actually counts the illegals... They pay payroll taxes and SSA recognizes that revenue on their balance sheet and potential liability if they have to pay out any claims to illegals.
  2. SSA actually counts the homeless... Homeless people had jobs before they became homeless... They still have SSA accounts and dependents...

Neither Are Perfect, BUT:
Census bureau struggles with BLS Birth/Death ratio level inaccuracies in these 2 categories...

crzyhun's picture

Massive problem and no one wants to address it. And it's not like this is a news flash! I have been watching the train wreck, oh, for a generation. Pathetic!

Printfaster's picture

The 3 act play conducted by the democrats over health care was designed simply to take away the attention from the big problems:

o  Generating private jobs

o  Medicare will never pay out, so the healthcare bill is a plan to steal promises made for Medicare and hide them under healthcare reform.

o  If Medicare cannot be paid out, then there is no way in heaven that Social Security will be paid out.

o  Uncontrolled pension benefit growth that is sucking more into health care and taxation to the point that no pension plan will ever pay out.

Notice that the lame duck is spending its whole time quacking about gays in the military, START, and minor touch ups to the tax plan.  No one frankly gives a rat's ass.  The big problem is the out of control federal and state budgets.


GottaBKiddn's picture

All the math is very nice and all, but the problem is not economic, but political. It doesn't matter which or how many doles you are collecting, whether you are employed, or whether you have physical. This is a coordinated global  collapse. The problem is that politicians are going to be the ones who are going to negotiate the terms of our surrender to their creditors. Forget your doles.

lynnybee's picture

I'm reading alot of "truth" here in these comments ..... I like it.   This was a good article & great comments & I'm learning new things ! ....... regards to all the wonderful people who frequent this wonderful website.

mr.smooth's picture


The USA needs more taxpayers. This is the primary reason that some type of immigration reform will happen soon.  Why do you think that the southern border is wide open with all the terrorist talk and airport screenings? What stops someone from flying to Mexico and then walking across the border? We need as many people to move from Mexico to the US as possible. This may be the only good chance to save the country ;)


Andy_Jackson_Jihad's picture


I always thought it was so TPTB could keep wage inflation low while feeding the ever-increasing asset price ponzi.

Its like the reverse of staglation for them.  Genious really.

Joe Davola's picture

7.5 million people - there's 3 million of the 3.7 million housing inventory.

Double.Eagle.Gold's picture

If we did in fact have an extra 7.5mm people in the country and they contributed to economic activity by the $47k multiplier it would translate into additional GDP of ~$353 billion.

I don't buy this.

If more people was all it takes to fix the economy, every guy in the country should be banging his wife 24/7 -- by order of the President!

This is academic thinking. If the additional people were producers, then sure that would bring us higher productivity. Given the average person is little more than a consumer of Chinese made trinkets, and/or a consumer of foodstamps and other government give-away's, your arguments are all, well, wet Sir.

One final note. In a healthy producing economy, I would agree more people producing would result in overall higher GDP. However, the USA today is not a healthy producer.

Respectfully submitted

AnAnonymous's picture

 In a healthy producing economy,


There is no production, only consumption. Getting more consumers under certain circumstances (mainly that they are actual consumers and not people starving on the streets)  is the path to a biggest GDP.

HungrySeagull's picture

Our enemies are banging 12 year old girls who have no education and flooding themselves with babies to raise for war. And I believe it is accomplished so carefully that these girls like being preggy and want more.

At some point our enemies are going to either breed us out by sheer numbers or simply replace suicide bombers expended in jihad for generations until the USA gets sick of it and goes home.

gangland's picture

you and  your "our enemies" are a fucking douchbag. Idiot.

Bruce Krasting's picture

In all the Scandinavian countries, other places in Europe and very importantly Japan the government pays people to have babies. In Japan it is big bucks and getting bigger by the year.

We are not there yet. Getting closer however....

Double.Eagle.Gold's picture

Government spending does not add to GDP, it simply reallocates. Worse, bureaucracy adds friction and there-by effectively reduces productive GDP.

Apologies for being slow, but I fail to see how this challenges my assertion that adding people does NOTHING with-respect-to GDP, given current state of USA economic environment.


DR's picture

The Fortune 500 company I work for has as it's standard health care maternity insurance  80% coverage after a $5000 HSA deduction.

You would think that the Health Care reform would have required %100 maternity coverage to encourage fertility.

Thisson's picture

Anyone who thinks children are subsidized here hasn't got any children.

Real #s:

NYC pre-k tuition: $24,000/year

NYC fulltime nanny (so two professional parents can work):  $26,000/year

Subtotal: $50,000 per year.  That's about equal to what it costs to send someone to a fulltime private college.  But this is a preschooler!

Yes, it may be possible to do it substantially cheaper.  But this doesn't include any other expenses, either.  Children are expensive!

Dr. No's picture

They are expensive, I agree.  However my point is why is there a tax deduction for kids?  Why are property taxes (pay for schools) not based upon how many kids you have?  The tax system rewards kids.  Albeit not outright payments (GWB tax rebate excluded).  Should a tax payer pay more to the government just because he didnt have more and more kids?  Should be the opposite I would think, since kids use more gov resources.

Common_Cents22's picture

blame it on the "pro choice" (infanticide) groups.  we'd have 45 million more citizens w/out infanticide.   Do the GDP math on that one!

LFMayor's picture

Check out the book Freakanomics...  the majority of those poor lost citizens would have grown up just like their (substandard) parents.  The only positive is that we'd be calling "Escape from New York" a far-seeing, clear eyed documentary that was years before it's time.

Andy_Jackson_Jihad's picture

You mean like the documentary Idiocracy ?

cosmictrainwreck's picture

Oh, that were a documentary? shit, all this time I was tinking it was some kinda spoof...but I din't really get it, ya know?

Dr. No's picture

I beleive they pay in the US too.  Have you ever filed the 1040 short with no dependants?  There are a bunch of other areas in which having children are compensated but not viewed as "direct" payment.

velobabe's picture

bruce i was interested in your article and read it. first, i am a total loser, second i get my dead husband's social security. it is some chump change for me. but never thought of it until someone said if you didn't remarry you get his benefits. i didn't remarry because of getting SS, just didn't ever want to marry again. but i never put one dime into the SS system. pretty good huh? i didn't take no fcking census either.

pigs need to eat's picture

Social Security will cover the Boomers, if we have luck on our side and we drastically change the rules regarding who is legally entitled.  All others will have to suck it up,sorry.  SS would not be a Ponzi scheme if we had real individual control of a retirement fund allowing the individual to know what they have in their personal accounts.  I have personal knowledge about the fraud abuse and waste in this system.  The truth is, there are millions taking a social security benefit when they never paid a dime into the system.  I am sure there are family members that have paid but there are recent immigrants and students here on visas collecting SS as well.  I am sure  some members of this forum will not like the reference to immigrants, ignorance in this area is stunning.  If SS administration was forced to show the number of people receiving a monthly check that in fact never paid a dime into the system, people paying into the scheme would be furious.  I guess my plan is to not expect any social security at all. 

Good Luck

LFMayor's picture

I don't expect to get anything back from it either... so i'm looking forward to "acting up" at the first clear opportunity.  And I do mean a grade A shit-conniption fit, one worthy of the sweat equity that I involuntarily invested.

In fact, this anticipation is about the only thing that keeps me cheerful anymore.

Don Levit's picture

Medicare is a bigger problem than Social Security but the dynamics are the same.

The FICA contributions that are neeeded to pay current beneficiaries are indeed used to do so.  The surplus FICA (and SECA) contributions have been loaned to the Treasury, spent for current expenses, and lowered the budget deficits (artificially, in my opinion).

So, everything is phantom about the trust funds.  The principal is phantom, for the dollars were lent and spent.  The dollars can't be two places at the same time  -  in the Treasury AND the trust funds!

Second, the interest is phantom, for it is not paid in cash, out of current revenues.  Rather, it is paid in Treasury securities (additional debt).  I can provide governmental excerpts and links to support my statements.

Don Levit

Double.Eagle.Gold's picture

All money is by definition -- debt.

Unless you barter directly for the goods you need in exchange for the work you provide on a daily basis, you are receiving a store of value|wealth. This store of value is a debt, a placeholder for some future expenditure of effort for which you will receive the good you need.

Gold is one debt form that societies continue to trust over the long term, and for good reason. It is relatively scarce, requiring substantial effort to produce, is effectively indestructible, divisible, has no counter-party risk & no higher competitive use.

Call it a store of wealth, but understand it's true use is money.

kiwidor's picture

That is insane.  a store of value is not debt.  2 bushels of wheat....is that a debt?  no.  a dozen eggs?  no.  it's a store of value, with a limited life.

Gold is not debt.  You can barter with it, it has no shelf life, it sure is a store of value, which is variable ; but it is not debt because it places no obligation on you.

Currency is a NOTE.  it places obligations on the HOLDER.  (more than you can imagine) .

get your terms right, please. 

Double.Eagle.Gold's picture

I understand the terms perfectly, thank you. I'm suggesting an alternative point of view Sir. For a more through discussion, see FOFOA:

Money is debt, by its very nature, whether it is gold, paper, sea shells, tally sticks or lines drawn in the sand. (Another shocking statement?) Yes, even gold used as money represents debt. More on this in a moment.

I believe it's possible you are miss interpreting the effect of paper money. If I, a US Citizen, carry Canadian Dollars and use them to conduct commerce transactions, does the act of carrying them or using them place a debt obligation on me? Of course the answer is clear, no it does not.

What FOFOA, and I by agreement, are saying is that when gold is used as money the store of value represented by the gold coin can be used to extract the time or talents of another, that the debt of their labors is covered by the gold coin.

The difference is, gold (and silver) do not place obligations on another -- they simply store the debt of labor in a form conducive as a medium of exchange.

Common_Cents22's picture

Doesn't our fed budget numbers assume a 5% GDP growth too?   oh wait, DEMS haven't passed a budget.    nevermind!

Ever wonder why we are in so much trouble?  I'll tell you.

There are maybe a handful of CPA's in CONgress.   CONgress is made up of a majority of freakin lawyers.

MachoMan's picture

As both a lawyer and an accountant, I can vouch that the vast majority of the legal community knows dick about rudimentary accounting, bookkeeping, money management, etc.  They talk about apple stock, look at headlines on MSN, and that's about the extent of it.  Although, to be fair, accountants don't know much about accounting either...  but, still know much more in general than lawyers...

DR's picture

The biggest political debates of the next decade will be centered around how gets payed back from the ponzi and who doesn't.

AnAnonymous's picture

That is the point. Ponzi extracts from their base. The base is folding up.

Time to part between people who will get their share of the wealth concentrated thanks to the ponzi and people who think they would get a share because they participated.

ThePhysicist's picture


The amount of debt each and everyone of us owe.


Shameful's picture

We need eternally increasing population and gdp growth to pay off the ponzi promises of the past.  If the pop was growing that much it would require even further and faster growth in the future to meet the obligations to them.  Eventually all systems that depend on eternal, never ending, and uninterpreted growth will fail.  We could never grow our way out of the problem, because the growth increased the obligation set.  All the growth now could do is push back the day of reckoning.

Going to see the pop of one of the biggest and most visible ponzi schemes in our lifetime.

RockyRacoon's picture

I guess you're saying it was gonna break sooner or later.  Why not now.

sensei's picture

It is ridiculous that the richest country in the world can't provide healthcare for everybody, a cushy retirement at 59 and a modest McMansion in the suburbs.

At least that is what I hear from the majority of Americans.  Demographics be damned --- I want the free stuff I was promised!!!

goodrich4bk's picture

Really?  A majority of Americans tell you that they want the government to provide them with healthcare, a cushy retirement at 59 and a modest McMansion in the suburbs?  I've lived 55 years and never heard a single person tell me they wanted or expected that from their government.  I have heard, however, that they are afraid of reaching an age when they can no longer work, when they cannot pay for shelter and food, and when they are tossed into the streets like a worn out shoe.

Hephasteus's picture

Our fake monetary sytem coughs a lung up and shit's it's liver out if home ownership goes over 65 percent. Because you can only have less than 2/3rds of the population participating in the counterfeiting racket.

"The King grants you a house" - Iching

I didn't fill out the census. I didn't answer the door. It's the beginning of the rebellion.

It'll grow into asking for the receipt, deducting the taxes and paying and leaving guns drawn.

"Fuck the king" - Bang DaeHo.

Gully Foyle's picture


Johnny Mnemonic: What the fuck is going on? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? You know, all my life, I've been careful to stay in my own corner. Looking out for Number One... no complications. Now, suddenly, I'm responsible for the *entire fucking world*, and everybody and his mother is trying to kill me, IF... IF... my head doesn't blow up first.
Jane: Maybe it's not just about you any more.
Johnny Mnemonic: Listen. You listen to me. You see that city over there? THAT'S where I'm supposed to be. Not down here with the dogs, and the garbage, and the fucking last month's newspapers blowing *back* and *forth*. I've had it with them, I've had it with you, I've had it with ALL THIS - *I want ROOM SERVICE*! I want the club sandwich, I want the cold Mexican beer, I want a $10,000-a-night hooker! I want my shirts laundered... like they do... at the Imperial Hotel... in Tokyo.

Shameful's picture

I hear the richest nation comment and laugh.  How can we be the richest when we are the biggest in debt?  How can we be the richest if we can never pay off said debt and liabilities?