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Old 07-03-2017, 03:45 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: NY
Studying for duolingo and coursera
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Idaho’s 65 and over population is booming. That’s going to cost us all more, but pay us more, too.

Idaho’s population continues to grow and age faster than the rest of the country, and that has big implications for wages, jobs and the state economy, as Baby Boomers bump up into retirement age and, seemingly, stream into the Gem State.

The latest data from mid-2016 shows that more than half of the nearly 116,000 Idahoans added since the 2010 census are over 65. They represent 52 percent of the total. The 25-44 cohort was the next largest contingent, at a little over 23 percent of the total; 45- to 64-year-olds were 15.6 percent.

At the low end, agewise and otherwise, the under-18 group made up 7 percent of the overall increase, while the 18-to-24 group accounted for less than 2 percent of new residents.

Measuring growth within those brackets, the 65-and-over set again led, their numbers increasing by nearly one-third between the 2010 census and the mid-2016 estimate, from 195,000 to 255,000. That includes a 12.6 percent increase in those 85 or older. The growth rate for 18-and-unders was just below 2 percent, with the 18-to-24 population again smallest, growing at a 1.4 percent rate.

In the six years following the 2010 census, Idaho’s overall population grew by 7.4 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for the entire U.S. Idaho’s 31 percent increase in the 65-and-over group during the period compares to about 22 percent for the U.S as a whole. Still, even with the uptick in Idaho’s median age that influx caused, to just over 36 years, that was below the overall U.S. median of just below 38 years.

OK, so that’s wages. What about prices?

Older people who come to Idaho might be drawn by family ties, the climate and scenery, and the relatively low cost of living, but they come with cash at the ready. They’re willing and able to pay a little more to scoop up that house in the Boise Foothills or close by McCall or Ketchum. High Boise home demand and the resulting spike in prices partly bears this out.

The liquidity those newcomers bring with them bears on other sectors of the economy. Since they are typically wealthier, they’ll pay more for food and other products and staples, and they’re used to higher prices where they used to live. Their numbers alone boost demand, so prices will go up, even if more suppliers arrive to meet the need.

From an economist’s point of view, it’s not a bad thing — unless something happens to throw things out of the tidy equilibrium that looks appealing in economics textbooks. More on that below.

So what’s ahead for Idaho’s business sectors?

Heightened demand for services of all kinds — from lawn care to health care, outdoor recreation to home renovation — and Idaho is seeing that already. Health care providers across the board are in higher demand to meet the needs of the aging population, and that will be a persistent trend. Will the health needs of older newcomers overburden rural communities somehow? Probably not, said Dalton: People who relocate to remote areas do so by choice and presumably know what they’re getting themselves into.

For those at entry level or early career stage of the workforce, if Idaho figures out how to meet its goals to improve and expand higher education — not just four-year college, but vocational, technical and two-year programs — that success will answer the shortage of qualified workers that plagues employers now.

So if it’s all to the good, what could mess it up?

Depends on whom you ask. If you’re a longtime resident who doesn’t like the changes, don’t ask an economist. From their perspective, what tends to muddle the orderly balance of supply and demand must often are policy attempts to control it and intervene.

Let’s say a locality, facing an influx of new residents and concerned with the changes that brings, throws up barriers to new construction, for example, or enacts policies to protect existing businesses or industries at the expense of others. That doesn’t stop the underlying growth trend, but it does make the ripple effects of that growth more pronounced, such as by driving costs for housing and goods higher. That in turn more adversely affects those less well-off, longer-term residents who are the intended beneficiaries of those policies.

“There’s always adjustment,” Dalton said. “The question is whether you accept the changes or try to battle the changes. And those battles are typically losing propositions.”

A resident of Boise since 1958, when parts of the Boise Bench were still farmland, Dalton said all the growth has been good for Boise and for Idaho.

“Instead of people thinking about an influx of (newcomers) as a problem, they should be thinking about an influx of diversity and bringing in more opportunities,” he said.


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