The divide between states gaining and losing their younger populations.
When the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” was released in 1967, many baby boomers adhered to the mantra, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Now the boomers are fully ensconced in advanced middle age, and the oldest of them are beginning to cross into full-fl edged senior-hood, as the first boomer turned age 65 last January. Some 80 million strong and more than one quarter of the U.S. population, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) are a still a force to be reckoned with, even as they have all crossed the age-45 marker. Along with their elders, the large and growing older American population presents significant future challenges for federal government programs such as Social Security and Medicare. State and local social services and infrastructure needs will also change in communities across the nation as the population ages.
This pervasive expansion of our older population is juxtaposed against a younger population that is growing much more slowly and unevenly. Some parts of the country, are “younging,” in the sense that their child and young adult populations are growing at a marked pace. In contrast, large stretches of the nation are sustaining only meager growth, or even declines, in their youth population. Because baby boomers and their elders are a growing share of communities almost everywhere, the distinctive shifts in the younger population pose different kinds of dilemmas.
In some areas, the aging of boomers and their parents will be mitigated by youthful gains due to movement from other parts of the country, immigration, or higher fertility. While the tax bases may increase in such areas, so will some of the public service needs of children and young families. In other areas,the loss or slow growth of the youth population will be associated with “brain drain,” reduced tax revenue, and a shortage of service workers, such as those involved with health services and assisted living for rapidly aging populations.
This brief examines 2010 census data to evaluate these uneven aging and “younging” patterns. After discussing data and measures, it examines national patterns of age-related growth and decline; state and metropolitan variations in older and younger population shifts; the geography of senior (age 65+) and soon-to-be senior populations; and city-suburban shifts with an emphasis on the wide variation in aging and “younging” patterns within the suburbs. The report concludes with some thoughts on the implications of these shifts for age-related public policies and politics in different parts of the country.
An analysis of data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses reveals that:
■ Due to baby boomers “aging in place,” the population age 45 and over grew 18 times as fast as the population under age 45 between 2000 and 2010. All states and metropolitan areas are showing noticeable growth in their older and “advanced middle age” populations which, for the fi rst time, comprise a majority of
the nation’s voting-age population.
■ Although all parts of the nation are aging, there is a growing divide between areas that are experiencing gains or losses in their younger populations. In 28 of the 50 states, and 36 of the 100 largest metro areas, the population below age 45 declined from 2000 to 2010. Yet in 29 metro areas, including Las Vegas, Orlando,
Houston, and Atlanta, the under-45 population grew by at least 10 percent over the decade.
■ Areas experiencing the fastest senior (age 65+) growth are located in the Sun Belt, while areas with the highest concentrations of seniors are located primarily in Florida, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Yet baby boom generation “pre-seniors,” now just turning 65, are growing rapidly in all areas of the country due to aging in place. College towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo, and Madison are among those where pre-seniors are growing fastest.
■ Suburbs are aging more rapidly than cities with higher growth rates for their age-45-and-above populations and larger shares of seniors. People age 45 and older represent 40 percent of suburban residents, compared to 35 percent of city residents.
■ Metropolitan suburbs differ sharply in the degree to which they are attracting young adults and children. The suburbs of 34 metropolitan areas, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, registered declines in their child and under-45 populations in the 2000s, leaving high concentrations of “advanced middle aged” and older residents. An even larger number of cities experienced losses in these younger populations.
America is beginning to show its age as the baby boom “pig in the python” advances toward full-fl edged senior-hood. But the pace of this aging will vary widely across the national landscape due to noticeable geographic shifts in the younger population, with implications for health care, transportation, and housing, and possible impacts upon our ability to forge societal consensus.
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