Alaska is expected to get a bit more crowded and a bit older.
According to a new forecast released Tuesday by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the 49th state is expected to rebound from a recent population downturn to house almost 838,000 people by the year 2045. The state currently has just over 737,000 people.
“Alaska is projected to add … about 100,000 people and reach more than 837,000 Alaskans,” said Eddie Hunsinger, the lead demographer on the project, in a Tuesday morning teleconference.
The proportion of Alaskans 65 or older is expected to surge by 60 percent between now and about 2030, as Baby Boomers age into retirement. The number of elderly Alaskans will grow from slightly below 83,000 to about 140,000 by the early 2030s. That increase is in line with national trends.
The projected growth in state population comes even as Alaska records a year-over-year population decline. In Tuesday’s phone call, Hunsinger explained that even though Alaskans can’t forecast changes in the state economy (which affect the number of people moving in and out of the state), they do know certain demographic trends that don’t change.
“There will be continued aging of the population and bigger increases in deaths than births,” he said.
The state releases a long-term population forecast every other year, and the evolution of the forecast shows how demographers have grown more pessimistic. In 2016, the projection was a state population of just under 900,000 by 2045. In 2014, the projection was for 925,000 by 2042. In 2012, it was for 915,000 by 2035.
“We will see a slower population growth in the future, in general. The only way to compensate for this is with changes to migration,” Hunsinger said.
Hunsinger’s projection is that migration will average -0.1 percent in the long term, and only by beating that average will the state increase its population. As fertility rates decline (Hunsinger is projecting an average of 2.15 births per woman, a fertility rate barely above even), immigration becomes the key driver of population.
Demographic reports, such as the one released Tuesday, have a huge impact for Alaskans planning for the future. A larger proportion of elderly Alaskans means greater demand for health care and nursing care services in the future. If there are fewer young Alaskans, there is less demand for schools and teachers. More people inhabiting an area means greater pressure on transportation and utilities such as water and power.
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