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America is graying but the nation is more racially and ethnically diverse, and also less fertile, says the Census Bureau when it released population estimates about the country’s demographics on June 25.

The nation is aging fast

Aging Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are driving the rapid increase in the nation’s 65-and-older demographic. In the last ten years the 65-and-older population in America has grown by over a third .

The aging of America has raised the national median age from 37.2 years in 2010 to 38.4 in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 Population Estimates.

Perhaps no other generation has left a mark on the American population as distinctive as the boomers, one of the largest generations in the country.  When they were born, the post-war ‘Baby Boomers’  grew the the ranks of the young and then the workforce they entered as adults.

Now, almost a half century later, boomers will expand the number of older adults as they age, states Census Bureau demographer Jonathon Vespa. Starting in 2030, when all boomers will be older than 65, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today

“The first Baby Boomers reached 65 years old in 2011,” said Dr. Luke Rogers, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Branch. “Since then, there’s been a rapid increase in the size of the 65-and-older population, which grew by over a third since 2010. No other age group saw such a fast increase. In fact, the under-18 population was smaller in 2019 than it was in 2010, in part due to lower fertility in the United States.”

By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be 65 years and older, the number of 85-plus will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.

The face of the nation is changing

But even as the nation is graying, the composition of the American populace now reflects more people from increasingly diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. The Census Bureau has recorded an increase in population across almost every racial and ethnic category its 2019 estimates.

The Asian population in the United States jumped to 22,861,985 in 2019, representing an 29.3% increase since 2010. Los Angeles County in California had the largest concentration of Asians, but the Asian population grew the fastest in Forsyth County, Georgia, increasing by 10% between 2018 and 2019.

  • The American Indian or Alaska Native population has grown by 3.1% since 2010 is also concentrated in Los Angeles County (229,594 in 2019).
  • The national Black or African American population grew by 11.6% since 2010 to 48,221,139 in 2019.
  • The Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population was up 21% since 2010 to1,612,424 in 2019.
  • The Hispanic population was up by 20% to 60,572,237 in 2019 since the last decennial.

Keeping pace with the graying trend, the median age also rose for every ethnic and racial group across the board.

Fewer babies are being born

In recent years natural increase (or births minus deaths) has declined steadily over the past decade, dropping below 1 million in 2019 or the first time in decades due to fewer births and more deaths.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today, forty-two states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018,.

“Natural increase has been slowing over the last five years,” said Dr. Sandra Johnson, a demographer/ statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau.

“This demographic transformation caused by a rapidly aging population is new for the United States,” says Vespa. Though America has remained younger due to higher fertility and more international migration that trend is changing. “Americans are having fewer children and the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s has yet to be repeated. Fewer babies, coupled with longer life expectancy equals a country that ages faster.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today, forty-two states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018

After peaking  at 0.73% between 2014 and 2015, the nation’s population is continuing a multiyear slowdown growing only by 0.5% between 2018 and 2019, and currently estimated  at 328.2 million (2019).

Between 2018 and 2019 ten states saw a decline in population while four of them – New York, Illinois, West Virginia and Louisiana – had losses of over 10, 000 people.

Despite losing population through net domestic migration, California remains the most populated state in the country, followed closely by Texas, Florida and New York.

In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history says Jonathan Vespa.

“Already, the middle-aged outnumber children, but the country will reach a new milestone in 2034 (previously 2035). That year, the U.S. Census Bureau projects [PDF] that older adults will edge out children in population size: People age 65 and over are expected to number 77.0 million (previously 78.0 million), while children under age 18 will number 76.5 million (previously 76.7 million).”

As the number of older adults continues to swell, the need for healthcare coverage and other public services will increase. Based on this trend, says Vespa, “The U.S. is fast heading towards a demographic first. It will become grayer than ever before as older adults outnumber kids.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.


Coverage for Census 2020 has been facilitated through a grant from the United Way Bay Area.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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