Friday, February 23, 2024

As Biden considers reelection bid, who are the oldest – and youngest – current world leaders?

Must read

Joe Biden is the oldest American president, having entered office at age 78, as well as the only U.S. president to turn 80 while in office. As Biden considers a reelection bid in 2024, he is the ninth oldest national leader in the world, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

Former President Donald Trump, who is running for the White House again next year, is younger than Biden. But at 76, Trump would be among the 25 oldest world leaders when compared with those currently in power, according to the analysis, which looks at sitting heads of government in 187 member states of the United Nations.

Below are five key facts about the ages of national leaders.

With current U.S. President Joe Biden considering a reelection bid in 2024 – and former President Donald Trump already running – Pew Research Center examined the ages of current national leaders to place the ages of Biden and Trump into a broader global context.

This analysis examines the ages of the current heads of government in 187 countries that are member states of the United Nations, relying on government biographies and regional news articles. It excludes six UN member states for which exact information on the birthdate of the national leader could not be found: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Mali, Somalia and Vanuatu. For each of these countries, we reached out to embassy officials in the United States but did not receive further information.

This analysis also draws upon Freedom House country rankings to determine whether countries are classified as free or not. These rankings come in three categories – free, partly free and not free – and are based on two numerical scores assigned to each country on the basis of its political rights and civil liberties.

The data used to determine the median age of a country’s overall population comes from the UN’s World Population Prospects 2022 report. The UN’s estimates are based on “all available sources of data on population size and levels of fertility, mortality and international migration.” The median ages of country populations in this analysis are based on 2023 projections for all countries.   

The analysis focuses on the head of government as defined by the country’s political system or constitution. In limited instances, the leader may not be the one who exercises the most power in the current government.

National leaders range in age from the mid-30s to 90. The youngest head of government for whom an exact date of birth could be found is Gabriel Boric of Chile, who is 37. (The current leader of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traoré, is younger than Boric but is not included in this analysis because an exact date of birth could not be obtained. Traoré is either 34 or 35.) Overall, Boric and Traoré are among a handful of national leaders who are in their 30s, including two other 37-year-olds – Sanna Marin of Finland and Dritan Abazović of Montenegro. The oldest national leader is Paul Biya of Cameroon, who was born in 1933 and took office more than 40 years ago. Biya is the only current national leader in his 90s.

The median age of current national leaders is 62. When grouped by decade, the largest share of global leaders today (35%) are in their 60s. Roughly a quarter (22%) are in their 50s, while 18% each are in their 40s or 70s. Biden is among the 5% of leaders who are in their 80s.

Countries that are less free tend to have older leaders. In countries that Freedom House classifies as not free, the median age of the national leader is 69, compared with 61 in countries that are classified as partly free and 58 in countries classified as free. The United States is one of only two countries that are classified as free and have a leader in their 80s or older. The other is Namibia, where the president is 81-year-old Hage Geingob.

A chart showing that Countries ranked less free tend to have older global leaders

Women leaders tend to be younger than men leaders. Although only 13 countries currently have a woman in the top office, the median age of these women is 57, compared with 62 for national leaders who are men.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is the youngest woman in power at 37, after having been sworn in at 34. Five other women leaders are in their 40s: Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, Kaja Kallas of Estonia, Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Giorgia Meloni of Italy and Ana Brnabić of Serbia.

A chart showing that Among global leaders, women tend to be younger than men

In most countries, the leader is significantly older than the median member of the population. For example, the median American is 38, while Biden is more than twice as old. In fact, the only countries that have a leader who is younger than the median resident of the country are Andorra, Montenegro, Italy and Finland.  

In general, countries that are deemed free – as determined by Freedom House – are more likely than those deemed partly free or not free to have leaders who are closer in age to the median resident of the country.

Laura Silver  is a senior researcher focusing on global research at Pew Research Center.

Latest article