America’s graying population

Map of Americans over seventy.

Map: Americans over 70 Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. population has changed substantially in the last half century, growing by nearly 63 percent.

Perhaps the two most prominent demographic changes over the past 50 years relate to age. In 1968, the baby boom had just ended, and the oldest members of its cohort were only 22 years old.

As baby boomers age, the nation has substantially aged as well. In 1970, the median age in the U.S. was 28.1. In 2016, it was 37.9.

Demographers and geographers like myself have watched as this aging cohort transformed the U.S., from young children in the 1950s and 1960s to senior citizens today. This graying of America has left a distinctive geographical fingerprint.

 

Where older Americans live

Unsurprisingly, popular retirement states like Florida and Arizona have high concentrations of older Americans.

What may be more of a surprise is the broad swaths of elderly running through the Midwest and the Appalachians. These regions have aged significantly, as many younger residents headed toward the coasts.

Younger people have also moved out of New England, primarily in search of jobs. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are among the seven states with a median age of over 40 in 2010; Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida are the others.

 

Published May 25, 2018

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