America Is Aging Quickly

Share of people 65 and older surges, while the share of children declines
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
America Is Aging Quickly
   (Getty / Pornpark Khunatorn)

The United States grew older, faster, last decade. The share of residents 65 or older grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2020 and at the fastest rate of any decade in 130 years, while the share of children declined, according to new figures from the most recent census, per the AP. The declining percentage of children under age 5 was particularly noteworthy in the figures from the 2020 head count released this week. Combined, the trends mean the median age in the US jumped from 37.2 to 38.8 over the decade.

  • Two groups: America's two largest age groups propelled the changes: more baby boomers turning 65 or older, and millennials who became adults or pushed further into their 20s and early 30s. Also, fewer children were born between 2010 and 2020, according to numbers from the once-a-decade head count of every US resident.

  • Big picture: There are important social and economic consequences to an aging population, including the ability of working-age adults to support older people through Social Security and Medicare contributions. The Census Bureau calculates a dependency ratio, defined as the number of children plus the number of seniors per 100 working-age people. While the dependency ratio decreased for children from 2010 to 2020, it increased for seniors by 6.8 people.
  • Very oldest: At the top end of the age spectrum, the number of people over 100 increased by half, from more than 53,000 people to more than 80,000. The share of men living into old age also jumped.

  • By race, ethnicity: The median age varied widely by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic whites were the oldest cohort, with a median age of 44.5. Hispanics were the youngest, with a median age of 30; and a quarter of all children in the US were Hispanic. Black Americans who weren't Hispanic had a median age of 35.5. The number was for 37.2 for Asians.
  • Youngest state: Utah, home to the largest Mormon population in the US, was the youngest state, with a median age of 31.3, a function of having one of the nation's highest birthrates. The District of Columbia's median age of 33.9 was a close second due to the large number of young, working-age adults commonly found in urban areas. North Dakota was the only state where the median age declined, from 37 to 35.8, as an influx of young workers arrived to work in a booming energy sector.
  • Oldest state: Maine was the oldest state in the US, with a median age of 45.1, as more baby boomers aged out of the workforce. Puerto Rico had a median age in the same range, at 45.2, as an exodus of working-age adults left the island after a series of hurricanes and government mismanagement. Older adults in four states—Florida, Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia—made up more than a fifth of those states' populations.
  • Oldest, youngest counties: Sumter County, Florida, home of the booming retirement community The Villages, had the highest median age among US counties, at 68.5; while Utah County, home to Provo, Utah, and Brigham Young University, had the lowest at 25.9.
(Read more US Census stories.)

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