America is Aging and Growing More Diverse, Census Data Shows

The uptick in age is attributed largely to the baby boomers nearing retirement, experts said.

The uptick in age is attributed largely to the baby boomers nearing retirement, experts said. Shutterstock

 

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“More than four out of every five counties were older in 2018 than in 2010," said one Census Bureau official about new population estimates.

America is growing older as boomers edge closer to retirement age and natural births decrease, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The nation is aging,” Luke Rogers, chief of the Population Estimates Branch at the Census Bureau, said in a statement. “More than four out of every five counties were older in 2018 than in 2010.  This aging is driven in large part by baby boomers crossing over the 65-year-old mark.”

The nation’s median age increased to 38.2 years, up from 37.2 years in 2010. Every state grew older except for North Dakota, which saw its median age decrease from 37 in 2010 to 35.2 in 2018, a change driven primarily by a population boom following growth in the fracking industry in the past decade. By contrast, Maine had the largest increase in median age in that same time period, jumping from 42.7 to 44.9 years—the highest median age in the country (Utah, at 31 years, is the lowest).

Likewise, in Puerto Rico, the median age increased nearly six years, from 36.9 to 42.8. That’s mostly due to an exodus of young people after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island two years ago.

Nationwide, women are slightly older than men, with a median age of 39.5 years compared to 36.9 years.

The share of the population aged 65 or older also increased, from 12.8 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2018 (a difference of 1.6 million people). That age group has grown by 30.2 percent (12.1 million people) since 2010, while the number of people under the age of 18 decreased by 1.1 percent (782,937 people).

As it ages, the country is also growing more diverse. The white population increased by roughly 220,000 people between 2010 and 2018, compared to an increase of about 3 million African Americans and 9 million Hispanic Americans. Among those groups, whites aged the least (1 year), followed by African Americans (1.4 years) and Hispanic Americans (2.2 years).

Broadly speaking, neither trend is surprising, said Jed Kolko, chief economist for Indeed, a job-search website.

“What is striking is that these two trends are happening almost everywhere in the country, including in all (or all but one) of the large metros where most Americans live,” he said. “Even though we've become so attuned to widening geographic gaps in economics and politics, nearly all of the country faces similar demographic trends.”

But several places are eschewing those trends, Kolko noted.

“Charleston, S.C. is the only big metro getting whiter,” he said. “Some very white metros like Scranton and Allentown are getting notably more diverse. The older population is growing rapidly in Austin even though Austin has been such a young place.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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