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As America Ages Out, Counties Are Winners And Losers

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

May 20, 2018 — Maps can tell you a lot in a hurry. Comparing two demographic representations, one from the New York Times and one from the Wall St. Journal, can tell you a lot about America’s birth rates, aging patterns, and where retirement age people are moving. The maps represent different themes on the aging of America, much of which is proving to be a surprise to demographers, who are puzzled by an an unexpected decline in birth rates.

Counties where deaths exceed births
The New York Times map offers a fascinating moving image of areas of the country that are aging out – where more people die than are born. As you watch it the map changes: it starts out with the picture as it was in 1991, and eventually ends showing 2016. During this 25 year period you can see that massive parts of the country that now have negative natural population decreases. Although much of the Midwest and Appalachia have been in this situation for a long time, now many formerly growing suburbs in the Northeast and Midwest – and even the coasts of northern California, the Pacific Northwest, Maine, and Florida – are seeing population losses. The Times article has some bad news for some parts of the U.S.: “Some of the once-fastest-growing counties in the United States are growing no more, and nationwide, the birthrate has dropped to levels not seen since the Great Depression.” The Census Bureau predicts that by 2030 there will be more Americans over 65 than there will be children under 18.

Retirement Designated Counties growing
The Wall St. Journal article, “Where Americans Retire Is Reshaping America”, tackles U.S. population change a little differently. While the overall U.S. population is barely growing at all, in federally designated retirement destination counties it rose 2% last year. That is according to recent census county population estimates. The Agriculture Department gives 442 U.S. counties a “retirement designation”, and about three-quarters of a million Americans moved into one of them last year. Some of the hottest places for retirees are Coeur D’Alene, ID, eastern PA and Ocean County, NJ, northern Michigan, suburbs near Denver, CO. Many areas in Florida like Naples are also growing fast.

Census confirms we are getting older
The nation’s population has a distinctly older age profile than it did 16 years ago, according to new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. The population of residents age 65 and over grew from 35.0 million in 2000 to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively. The nation’s median age — the age where half of the population is younger and the other half older — rose from 35.3 years on April 1, 2000, to 37.9 years on July 1, 2016. “The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,” said Peter Borsella, a demographer in the Population Division. “Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for many years to come.”

America’s oldest counties
Two-thirds (66.7 percent) of the nation’s counties experienced an increase in median age last year. In 2016, two counties had median ages over 60: Sumter, Fla. (67.1 years), and Catron, N.M. (60.5 years). In the year 2000 Sumter County, which is home to The Villages, the median age was 49.2. It also has the distinction of being the fastest growing county in the U.S.

Bottom line
The trends are pretty clear – America is getting older, thanks to us baby boomers. Some areas of the country are going to lose population, and others are going to gain. Long term that has to have an effect on property values, taxes, and local economies. We are curious to see if our Members are going to go along with these trends (moving to more retiree-attractive areas), or if they are just going to go their own way.

Comments? Are you seeing evidence of the aging of America, along with population changes like those described here? Are your retirement plans lining up with a move away from the suburbs and to a designated retirement area? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
2018 Population Estimates – Census Bureau
Nation’s Population Continues to Grow Older: Census Bureau
Wall St. Journal – Where Americans Live

Posted by Admin on May 19th, 2018


  1. The Census Bureau info and maps surely paint the picture of the overall aging of the USA population. Most counties are a darker shade of color in 2016 versus the previous map.

    The real story underlying the New York Times maps is not overall aging. The real story is the exodus from rural counties to suburban and metropolitan counties. With the exception of Florida counties, Western Pennsylvania counties, Eastern Ohio counties, and Appalachian counties, most metropolitan and suburban counties remain white, not red. Most of the widespread newly acquired red counties occur in midwestern and plains states in rural areas.

    This is a big problem for rural counties. For years they have tried creative ways to lure newly graduated medical professionals, business graduates, and trades people to work in rural America. Those efforts aren’t working very well as evidenced by the Times map. The average age for farmers is nearing 70 years old if I remember correctly. This will impact all who eat in the USA and the rest of the world. Not good. The push to have all our children earn college degrees and get “good” jobs increases urbanization because the “good” jobs with higher pay and benefits are in the cities.

    by Doug — May 20, 2018

  2. It does make you wonder what the future will hold if there are less taxpayers. What will become of our infrastructure? Bridges falling down and highways falling apart due to not enough taxes being paid to maintain anything.

    Will the government offer incentives for people to increase family size?

    Will the government be willing to bring in more immigrants and fast track them to citizenship?

    by Louise — May 20, 2018

  3. Here is an example of future tax payers.

    Another article stating US needs more skilled trade labor. I hope the youth are listening and researching as they graduate from high school.

    by JoannL — May 21, 2018

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