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Demography and Age Cohorts


Demography and age cohorts. We are right up here at 9B. An age cohort is a demographic group of people who were born at a similar time. This can be very finely tuned, so on one level, one definition, a new age cohort is born every year. But more frequently, age cohorts are grouped into generations.

7 to 15 year periods of time is pretty typical. Demographers group generations according to a couple different things. Trends in birth rates, if there's a sudden influx or drop in birth rates, you might be looking at a new generation. Influential world events that uniquely shaped a group of people, so these are usually political, oftentimes a war.

Another way of grouping generations is just by time of when they're born. Some demographers define each generation 15 to 20 years at a time, regardless of world events. We're looking at US number of births, but these are the same generational names for Western countries in general. The one you absolutely need to learn and memorize is the Baby Boom, and know the dates as well, 46 to 64.

You can just remember the last two numbers there are reversed. And there are a few things that make this generation particularly influential. One is the boom, and that just refers to the rise in birth rates. This is following World War II, booming economically, lots of industry. And so people could get jobs early, houses early, and have babies at earlier ages. And also because it was following the war, a lot of couples who had been split up before were now able to start families.

Another way this generation is unique is tied to political events. These were people who were young people during the Civil Rights Movement, during the hippie movement. And they saw a very different world than their own parents had. And quite important for the MCAT is that this is the aging population. I'm gonna go through these more quickly, cuz I don't think you need to memorize the names.

There are a few things I'll point out, generation up here is mostly not alive any more, but there are some. The Silent Generation, these are the current folks, the current elderly. And they're giving us kind of a glimpse at what the health care expenditures might look like as the Baby Boom becomes elderly in the next 20 years. Gen X is the brunt of the working population right now, and are starting to get chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Generation Y tends to encounter the health care system through children. So this is the generation that currently is having children, young children, and that's usually their connection to health and medicine. And then Generation Z is unique health-wise for a couple different reasons. But primarily, this generation has unparalleled levels of asthma and also childhood obesity.

And I can imagine both of those topics coming up on the MCAT. But again, the only generational name to really focus on is the Baby Boom. I can definitely see this coming up on the MCAT. This is any generation that is currently caring for aging parents as well as supporting their own children. In Western countries, the sandwich generation actually, right now, includes late Baby Boomers, or younger Baby Boomers.

And early Gen X, which are the older folks in Generation X, because these are the people in their forties and fifties. In another 20 years, Gen Y will be the sandwich generation. And the significance of this term is that is takes a lot of time, money, emotional energy to care for elders and children at the same time. The sandwich generation is often making health care decisions on behalf of their parents.

And like I said, I can imagine this coming up on the MCAT. I'm showing you this slide in order to just emphasize that generational lines vary according to unique events in a particular country. In China, there is what's called the Great Leap Forward. And this was a period, this was under Mao, and very high birth rates, a push for socialism in a very targeted way.

In 1979, the one-child policy went into effect, and that drew a generational line. You can see that actually, birth rates had already been falling. But kids who were born under this 1979 to, it's hard to say exactly where that generational line ends. 2015 is when the one-child policy began to become phased out.

And one thing that I find interesting about this is it coincides with the Generation Y of Western countries. That's the first generation when you start to see some similarities across regions of the world. In particular, these people, Generation Y, in industrialized countries were raised with a lot of the same pop culture, and also with the same type of technology.

Because globalization was really just picking up at this time. Sociologists, epidemiologists, demographers talk a lot about the graying of the world. And this refers to the fact that the median age of humans continues to rise globally. And this is most pronounced in wealthy countries, where birthrates are low and life expectancy is high or long.

This is a good term to memorize for the MCAT. And largely, again, the MCAT is geared toward, what kind of sociology do you need to know in the healthcare profession? The graying of the world has profound consequences for institutions, and in particular, healthcare. And that's going to become even more the case over the next 50 years.

This slide is looking at health care expenditures according to age group as well as Western country. And as you can see, as populations age, they cost more to keep healthy. But this is particularly true in the US, and why is this the case? Two main reasons, one is that the US does have a very expensive upper echelon of advanced medicine.

These other countries have advanced medicine as well, very technological. But the US has these what's sometimes called boutique services that are expensive. And the other reason is that to purchase hospital equipment, the costs are much higher in the US. They're not regulated by the government, they're not standardized.

They're not negotiated with the companies, and so companies can charge what they want. And they charge a lot, and we all pay a lot for that. And here's a summary slide for you to refer to.

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