When calculating the impact of policy, does the CBO/BLS/DHH or other government agency consider the number of future people who will be affected over the lifetime of the policy?

Why/Why not?

For example population growth in 2008 was estimated to be about 2.7 million. By census estimates, this growth is composed of 4.248 million births less 2.473 million deaths.[1] With a natural growth of 1.7 million, this leaves about 1 million additional people who came by immigration or due to census estimation error. So population grew 2.7 million in 2008, but the actual number of new people affected by a policy enacted in 2008 is closer to 5.2 million (new births/immigrants).

[1] http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/12statab/vitstat.pdf

  • I'm with user1873. Are you asking what this statistic means? Are you asking about the birth rate?
    – Publius
    Sep 2, 2014 at 21:39
  • I clarified that I meant minimum wage law as an abstraction, and it's unimportant that this is 131.6 million or whatever, just that we talk about populations versus unique people. Sep 3, 2014 at 4:13
  • 2
    @user1873 - if the legislation's costs (or other effects) are dependent on future census, then using current census for estimating its total costs/impact is incorrect without accounting for growth projections. That's exactly how they work on Social Security estimates, BTW
    – user4012
    Sep 3, 2014 at 17:30
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    @DVK, I know. I was just editing the OPs question to be coherent. I knew the SSA, the BLS, and a couple of other agencies regularly project estimates that take future population into account. A good answer now will link to some reports that reference future population projections affect on some congressional legislative change.
    – user1873
    Sep 3, 2014 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


In general, yes.

Here, for example, is a study showing how much Social Security will grow. It accounts for population changes, which are easiest to project in the elderly, using simple actuarial tables.

You know that old saw that says: "Only in Washington can a budget increase be called a cut!"? The basis of that statement is in how CBO scores the financial implication of a bill. Most programs are scored for their fiscal impact over a 10 year period. This means that the CBO analyst looking at the fiscal impact of a program is going to figure out what it is going to cost over the next 10 years.

In order to do that, assumptions are implicitly made about the usage of the program in question. An education bill, for example, will factor in the number of students expected to take advantage of it. Implicitly, there is growth that will be factored into that equation- growth from the number of people using it and growth in costs due to inflation.

One may often question the growth rates assumed - and this is why budget scoring is an art and not a science - but the growth rates are in there.

That is also why a program set to "grow" at say 10% a year, might be "cut" by 5%, and still see its nominal budget increase.

  • >An education bill, for example, will factor in the number of students expected to take advantage of it. Sep 6, 2014 at 0:47
  • It also depends on if they are directed to take it into consideration. The CBO does its reports at the direction of congress. If the CBO is directed to take growth into account it will. If it is directed not to it will not. Or at least it will publish a report where it is not taken into account, but the CBO is semi independent in that it can at the discretion of the Director of the CBO issue reports that have alternate figures accounted for. Which is why there are so many different official estimates on the what the ACA will cost. Sep 8, 2014 at 1:54

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