Why nerds and nurses are taking over the U.S. economy

Health care will take over—or, continues its long takeover of—the economy.

The funny thing about getting old is that, outside of Christopher Nolan films, it is a one-speed phenomenon, which does not yield itself to sudden and surprising news headlines—e.g., Scientists Stunned As Springfield’s Population Ages 10 Years in One Weekend. But the greying of the U.S. is quietly one of the nation’s most important economic events.

Aging explains, for example, why jobs are projected to grow 50 percent slower in the next decade than they did between 1996 and 2006. It explains why, since the mid-1990s, the share of the labor force over 55 will have doubled by the mid-2020s—from 12 percent to 25 percent. It may explain the nation’s declining productivity. And it explains why the future of the economy is health care.

Health care’s statistical dominance of the emerging labor force is stunning.

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