50 ways America is projected to change by 2050
Science fiction books and fantasy movies have long tried to predict the future, creating elaborate worlds filled with strange creatures and bizarre technology. But understanding of the future isn't just limited to science fiction. There are entire organizations and institutions filled with futurists and technology experts whose job it is to analyze trends to determine where society is heading next.
With the help of thorough research and analysis, experts can anticipate how America's laws, policies, political philosophies, and social trends can be expected to change. They can predict human shifts like population growth and demographic changes, ecological and environmental shifts like ocean levels and climate change, and health statistics like life expectancy and medical breakthroughs. The list goes on.
With all of that said, what will the United States look like in the future? It's likely the country will see significant changes in all the major categories listed above. To help paint a clearer picture, Stacker has sifted through data and gathered projections from scientists, social anthropologists, economists, demographers, technologists, and others to see what experts are saying about the future. In this gallery, we've put together a list of 50 major changes expected to occur by the year 2050.
Read on to get a sneak peek of the future.
We'll travel between cities in a human propulsion network
Elon Musk is currently working on a Hyperloop network that would allow people to travel between cities in sealed pods traveling up to 700 miles per hour. In the models, the human propulsion system could transport a commuter from New York City to Washington D.C. in 29 minutes. Other concepts have been floated for plans, including from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Chicago to Cleveland.
There will be three times as many people
According to a Pew Research Center study, the American population will explode, going from 329 million in 2018 to 438 million by 2050. The increase, which will represent more than a 33% change, will largely result from an influx of people into the country. In fact, it is estimated that 82% of the growth between 2005 and 2050 will be due to immigrants arriving, and their descendants.
Debt will nearly double
A 2017 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that U.S. debt held by the public will reach a staggering 150% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2046. In 2017, the rate was 76.5%, meaning that the figure will increase by 96% over the next 30 years. The budget office forecasts were largely linked to the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will remain in place during those years, noting the rising costs of health care as the population of people over 65 grows.
It will be as hot as the Middle East in some U.S. cities
A Vox analysis of a recent report by the National Climate Assessment (NCA) showed that almost every U.S. city will experience a temperature increase for both summer and winter averages by 2050, noting that in some places it will be so hot it's “dangerous to go outside.” According to Climate Central, future temperatures in some regions can best be compared to the Middle East. Las Vegas, for instance, will have summer highs projected at 111 degrees, comparable to temperatures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Phoenix will be like Kuwait City at a scorching 114 degrees.
There will be many more elderly people
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the life expectancy of the average American in 2016 would be about 78.8, a figure that was more than it had been in previous years. By 2050, people will live even longer. According to the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society, women by 2050 will live to be 89 to 94, and men will live to be 83 to 86. The Pew Research Center additionally found that one out of every five people in the United States will be age 65 or older by 2050 while 400,000 people or more will be 100 or older.
The economy will lag behind China and India
Global growth projections for 2050 conducted by auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggested that emerging markets may grow twice as fast as the world's advanced G7 economies, leading to America lagging behind. The company predicted that China will be in first place by 2050 with India in second and the U.S. coming in third. Some have disputed the estimates, noting how similar projections have failed in the past when the institutions and policies that support the growth rates were not factored in.
NASA could have a human colony on the Moon
A group of NASA scientists recently published a journal outlining how the United States could establish a human colony on the Moon. The idea would be to use the satellite as a base camp for Mars exploration and ultimately colonization of that planet.
“We're not going to have a research base on Mars until we can learn how to do it on the Moon first,” NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay told Popular Science. “The Moon provides a blueprint to Mars.”
There will be even more women than men
Although men outnumbered women in the United States in the mid-1800s, that statistic shifted dramatically during World War II when the draft depleted the American male population. Since then, women have been thriving demographically and continuously outpacing the growth of men. Although the percentage split of 49–51 will remain fairly close in 2050, the number of women in the U.S. will have grown by 7.5 million more than U.S. males.
There will be a rise of “luxury cities”
Joel Kotkin, author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” has pointed in the past to a growing phenomenon he calls “luxury cities.” In places like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, groups of young and mostly single, childless residents have pushed out the middle class and driven up the cost of living, creating expensive urban playgrounds with few practical resources and an endless supply of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, and other hipster establishments. These cities will grow and proliferate, he estimates, moving toward 2050—a trend he considers concerning from an economics standpoint.
People of color will be the majority
Predictions by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that by the time 2050 rolls around, 53% of the American population will be defined as multiracial or nonwhite. The white population will drop from 67% to 47%. With fertility being the driving force, the change in the racial demographics is expected to occur regardless of immigration policies.
“If you reduced new immigration to zero, you'd still see growth in immigrant communities, more so than in white, native-born communities,” said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, in an interview with Politico. “Immigrants just have more children and have them younger.”2018 All rights reserved.