Posted by: Josh Lehner | March 15, 2016

Demographic Budget Drivers

I know, I know. I really need to stop with the the clickbait. However this is actually a really important, if not sexy, topic.

Today, Mark and I are giving an update and outlook to state agencies and their budget offices, as part of the budget kickoff in advance of the 2017-19 Governor’s Recommended Budget that will be released in December (regardless of the election outcome). While the economic and revenue information will be familiar to regular readers or those who follow our quarterly forecasts, some of our demographic work may be new. These longer term, underlying demographic trends are important to track and almost entirely baked into the cake, so to speak.

This first graph looks at how demographics are expected to change in the coming years relative to the recent past. A version of this graph has appeared in the budget document for a really long time. It comes from Kanhaiya, our state demographer, and the great work he does, which feeds directly into everything else our office produces.

Update: A note about this graph. What it shows are demographic and population changes over time for each age group. The yellow bars are the percentage change from 2000 through 2015. The blue bars our office’s forecast for 2015 through 2030. Also, the forecasts are only for the underlying demographic groups that make up each category, we make not behavioral assumptions here. For example, it does not show the actual prison inmate population forecast. Rather the changes seen in the underlying demographic group that makes up the bulk of the prison inmate population (males 18-44 years old).


This second graph compares demographic trends will how the Legislature actually spends the General Fund and Lottery revenues. This, of course, is not saying what they should spend the money on. The power of the purse rests in the Legislative branch. Rather this graph provides a very high level look at the evolution of state expenditures and demographics.

Update: A note about this graph. What it shows is the how the shares of the budget and the shares of the population have evolved since the late 1980s. The dark blue lines are based on the Legislature’s budget. The light blue lines on the state’s demographic breakdown over time. For example let’s look at the first category: K-12 Education. In 1987-89, K-12 funding was 33% of the state’s General and Lottery fund budget and the K-12 population represented 18% of the state’s population. In 2015-17, K-12 funding represented 39% of the state budget while the underlying K-12 population was 16% of the state’s overall population.


Big policy changes are clearly seen in the data. The large increase in K-12 funding following property tax reforms. The increased public safety spending following the quickly rising prison population in the 1990s. Human Service spending closely tracks the need/demand for services. And so forth.


  1. Josh, This is really cool. The four categories that you look at represent a high proportion of state GF&L spending, but some other breakdowns would be interesting too, especially Headstart/childcare, TANF, and Foodstamp spending (own source and all source).

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