Interactive: Do you look like America?

By Chris Wilson

Every few years, the Census Bureau releases its projections for how many people of every possible combination of age, sex, race and ethnicity will live in the United States over the next half century. Curious how many 35-year-old female Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Natives there will be in 2045? I can tell you.It’s 17,632.

One might scoff at this sort of datum. How could the Census Bureau possibly know what medical advances will prolong our lives over the next 33 years? Or what geopolitical currents will shift immigration patterns? And what about the robot apocalypse? Will the robots prey on every age group with statistical uniformity?

The Census Bureau doesn’t know, of course. A projection is a portrait of what the country will look like if present trends persist exactly as they are now: if babies are born to parents of different races at the same rates, immigration is unchanged and people’s life spans adhere precisely to the unforgiving mathematics of decline. No one, including census demographers, believes this will happen.

When your mother says, “Keep eating like that and you'll have a heart attack when you’re 50,” she is not predicting the future. She is commenting on your present behavior. Population projections have the same effect: They don’t tell us much about the distant future, but they tell us a surprising amount about the present.

“The idea is that if all of the assumptions were to come true, that is what we would expect the population to be at that future point in time,” says census demographer Jennifer Ortman, who led the team that produced the projections.

In the interactive below, you can track the predicted population for any demographic profile, based on the figures released last month. Each line represents people born in a single year. You can drag the sliding bar back and forth to examine individual years of birth.

If the line rises, it is due to immigration (there is no method by which people of a given age otherwise materialize from thin air). Lines tend to tick up at the end because the census groups everyone who is 100or older together, and there tend to be more of them than there are 99-year-olds.

If this view is too morbid for you—I’d like to think I have more than a 3-in-4shot at being a vibrant, dashing 77-year-old in 2060—you can switch the view in the upper right-hand corner to “by age,” which shows a different view: How many people of an exact age, race, ethnicity and sex will live in America in the next five decades? Rather than, for example, track people who are 37 right now,this tracks the number of 37-year-olds there will be each year going forward.

I find this more interesting, because it shows us waves of births and captures the rise or decline of a given slice of the population independent of time's cruel recall. There will be twice as many 72-year-olds in 2060 as there are today, for example—a fact that starkly captures the reality of our aging population. Dragging the bar to age zero shows projected births. Dragging it to65 shows us that, in the next several years alone, the number of newly eligible retirees will spike dramatically.

When we look at these projections, we’re visited by the Ghost of Census Future—not, perhaps, attended by the same terror as Scrooge encountered, but with the same knowledge that what we’re really seeing is the present.

  • Ebola zone countries isolated as airlines stop flights
    Ebola zone countries isolated as airlines stop flights

    The three nations at the centre of the west African Ebola outbreak were left increasingly isolated Thursday as more airlines suspended flights to the crisis zone. Air France has agreed to Paris's request for a "temporary suspension" of services to Sierra Leone, leaving its capital Freetown and Monrovia in neighbouring Liberia with just one regular service, from Royal Air Morocco. "In light of the analysis of the situation and as requested by the French government, Air France confirms it is maintaining its program of flights to and from Guinea and Nigeria," the flag carrier said Wednesday.

  • Brazilian Town Run by Women Is Looking for a Few Good (Single) Men
    Brazilian Town Run by Women Is Looking for a Few Good (Single) Men

    I'm sure many men have dreamed of an island completely populated by exotic women, available to fulfill their every desire. Of course, fantasy is fantasy, but what if it were reality? In a certain regard, it is — in Noiva do Cordeiro, Brazil. It's a scenic rural town in the hills outside of Belo Horizante with one big quirk, or perk, depending on whom you talk to. This Brazilian town is inhabited and governed almost entirely by women, its population consisting of more than 600 mostly single women aged 20 to 25. Sons are sent away at 18, and spouses are banned from the town except on weekends.

  • Hannity Goes Off On ISIS-Supporting Imam: ‘Every Radical Islamist Like You Will Be Wiped Off The Face …
    Hannity Goes Off On ISIS-Supporting Imam: ‘Every Radical Islamist Like You Will Be Wiped Off The Face …

    Fox News host Sean Hannity got into a fiery exchange Wednesday night with radical British imam Anjem Choudary. Choudary, who has in the past praised the 9/11 terrorist attacks, attempted to defend the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria during his appearance on “Hannity.” After a heated back and forth, Hannity exploded on Choudary. (RELATED: Radical Muslim Cleric Anjem Choudary May Be A Fraud And A Clown, But He Is Still Dangerous) “Eventually the world’s going to wake up to what I would say and every radical Islamist like you will be wiped off the face of the earth,” Hannity lectured the imam.

  • Pop singer Redfoo attacked at Australian pub

    SYDNEY (Reuters) - Redfoo, one half of LMFAO the U.S. pop duo behind the hit single "I'm Sexy and I Know It", has been hit with a glass at a pub in an upmarket Sydney suburb and suffered a minor facial injury, Australian police said on Thursday. The singer and Australian X Factor talent show judge, whose real name is Stefan Kendal Gordy, has been left with a scar above his right eye after a man hurled a glass at him, police said. “He looked at me and taunted me and winked his eye, just to say ‘I got you’ or something," Redfoo told Australian television. ...

  • Phone call data may alter Malaysia jet search area
    Phone call data may alter Malaysia jet search area

    CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Just weeks before the hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner is set to resume, an Australian official said Thursday that the sprawling search area in the southern Indian Ocean may be extended farther south based on a new analysis of a failed attempt to call the plane by satellite phone.

  • Shaun the shaggy Aussie sheep finally shorn smooth
    Shaun the shaggy Aussie sheep finally shorn smooth

    SYDNEY (AP) — Shaun the shaggy Australian sheep has at last been shorn smooth. But the woolly wanderer wasn't the wooliest of them all.

  • Lebanese army, gunmen clash at Syrian border: source

    Gunmen killed at least one Lebanese soldier on Thursday when they attacked an army post at the border with Syria on Thursday near a town seized by Islamist insurgents earlier this month, a security source said. Three soldiers were wounded in the clash in the mountainous border zone just outside the town of Arsal, which was held for five days by militants, including fighters affiliated to Islamic State, in an incursion that resulted in deadly battles with the army. Overnight, the Lebanese army shelled militant positions in the same area.

  • Sister of accused Boston marathon bombers arrested after bomb threat
    Sister of accused Boston marathon bombers arrested after bomb threat

    The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police said on Wednesday. Aliana Tsarnaev, 23, sister of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was facing charges of aggravated harassment, a New York City Police Department spokesman said. Tsarnaev, of North Bergen, New Jersey, was accused of calling a woman in New York City's Harlem neighborhood and telling her "I have people that can go over there and put a bomb on you," the spokesman said. Her brothers are accused of killing three people and wounding more than 260 after detonating pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

Follow Yahoo! News

Loading...