May 26th, 2011 | Posted in Aging
by Mark Mather, associate vice president, Domestic Programs
Women live longer than men, not only in the United States, but in nearly every country that appears in PRB’s annual World Population Data Sheet. But in the United States and many other developed countries, this gap is narrowing. In 1979, there was an eight-year gap in life expectancy between U.S. men and women. By 2008, this gap had narrowed to five years. It’s not that women are dying sooner, but men’s life expectancy is increasing at a faster pace. Practically speaking, this increase in men’s life expectancy is leading to big changes in the sex ratio—the number of males per 100 females in the population. In 2000, there were 41 men ages 85 and older for every 100 women in that age group. By 2010, that ratio had increased to 48, and it is expected to rise further as a healthier cohort of baby boomers reaches retirement age. There have been similar increases in the sex ratio among the ‘”young” old—those ages 65 to 84.
Males Per 100 Females in the U.S., by Age Group, 1990-2010
|5 – 14||105||105||105|
|15 – 24||104||105||105|
|25 – 34||100||102||101|
|35 – 44||98||99||99|
|45 – 54||96||96||97|
|55 – 64||89||92||93|
|65 – 74||78||82||87|
|75 – 84||60||65||72|
|85 and older||39||41||48|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau.
If current trends continue, men’s life expectancy could approach that of women within the next few decades. The rising sex ratio has implications for family relationships and caregiving in old age. There could be more potential partners for older women, and fewer women living alone. We could also see an increase in older men or women providing care for an ailing spouse. Given recent changes in family structure, including a rise in cohabitation and nonmarital births, it is possible that fewer adult children will be available—or willing—to provide care for elderly parents in the coming decades. Could spousal care help fill this gap?