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Social Explorer Analysis: Fewer Kids Equals An Older United States

SATURDAY, JUN 24, 2023

The graying of the United States is simple math.

“Fewer kids are being born,” Andrew Beveridge, president and co-founder of Social Explorer, told The New York Times in a June 22 article that reported the U.S. median age has soared, from 30 years old in 1980 to 38.9 years old in 2021.

A Social Explorer analysis finds that only 29 U.S. counties – mostly small, rural outposts in the Great Plains and southwestern U.S. border – reported median ages in 2021 that were younger than the 1980 medians. The age of a typical resident of tiny Loving County, Texas, was 45.3 years in 1980. Enough young people moved to Loving (one of the nation’s least-populated counties) to drop the median age to 31.2 years, according to the 2017-21 American Community Survey. Ten of the 20 counties with the largest declines in median age were located in Texas.

Among more densely populated areas, the median age of Pasco County, Fla., has fallen 8.7 years over the last generation. The Florida county, located directly north of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, reported a median age of 52.8 years in 1980 but only 44.1 years in 2021.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of U.S. counties – 3,096 of the 3,124 that existed in both 1980 and 2021 — reported sharp increases in median age. Sumter County, Fla., a fast-growing central Florida enclave west of Orlando that includes The Villages, had its median age jump from 34.5 in 1980 to 49.2 in 2000. The median age leapt again by 2021 to 68.1 years – a 33.6-year increase over a single generation.

The median age in Sumter County was the highest of any U.S. county, by far. Its median age is more than seven years greater than the median in Jeff Davis County, Texas, a rural outpost where the median age is now 60.5 years.

The aging trend was also evident in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, which reported the smallest increase in the nation. The capital’s median age moved up from 31.1 years in 1980 to 34.3 years; it’s the second-youngest place in the nation, trailing only Utah’s 31.3 years (a 7.1-year increase from the 1980 median of 24.2 years).

The oldest states in the nation have migrated over the last generation. In 1980, Florida had a median age of 34.7, followed by New Jersey (32.2 years) and Pennsylvania (32.1 years). By 2021, the oldest states had shifted north. Maine reported a 2021 median of 44.7 years, followed by New Hampshire (43 years) and Vermont (42.7 years).

Because of its small population, Loving County reported the biggest gap in median ages between men and women; the median age for a male in the county in 2021 was 60.3 years, while the median age for females was 27.2. In Kent County, another rural area in the South Plains area of Texas, the typical male was 39.3 years old; the median age for women was 61.4 years, a 22.1 year difference.

Social Explorer utilizes customizable, award-winning reporting and mapping tools to provide crucial information for researchers, businesses and individuals. Use our platform to study changes in median age by counties from 1980 to 2021.

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