On June 30, 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2021 Population Estimates by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin. The report shows that the last two decades have seen the country grow continuously older. Since 2000, the national median age – the point at which one-half the population is older and one-half younger – has increased by 3.4 years, with the largest single-year gain of 0.3 years coming in 2021. The median age in the U.S. is now 30.8. The median age for most states also increased from 2020 to 2021, indicating their populations are getting older overall.
Utah remains the youngest state in the nation with a 2021 median age of 31.8 – up from 31.5 in 2020. The District of Columbia has the second-lowest median age (34.9) but had the largest increase – 0.5 years from the 2020 age of 34.4. According to the Census Bureau, “With birth rates trending downwards and the aging of the Baby Boom and Generation X cohorts, the median age will likely continue to rise in the coming years.”
Only one state’s population – Maine – became slightly younger, as its median age decreased from 44.8 to 44.7. However, Maine remains the state with the oldest median age in the nation. Only three states have no change in median age – Montana (40.1), New Hampshire (43), and West Virginia (42.8). These are also among the oldest states in terms of median age.
The median age in 57% of all U.S. counties and equivalents increased, and 74% of counties had higher median ages than the nation as a whole. Six counties had median ages greater than or equal to 60 years – Sumter County, FL (68.3); Kalawao County, HA (65.5); Catron County, NM (61.8); Harding County, NM (60.3); Charlotte County, FL (60.2); and Jeff Davis County, TX (60).
The counties or equivalents with the youngest median ages in the nation were Lexington City, VA (22.2); Todd County, SD (23); Kusilvak Census Area, AK (23.7); Madison County, ID (32.7); and Radford City, VA (24.4).
The median age increased in about 76% of metro areas between 2020 and 2021. The three largest increases were in Lake Charles, LA, where the median age rose from 36.5 to 37.4; Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC, which increased by 0.8 years to 47.8; and San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA, where the median age crossed the 40-years-of-age threshold, increasing from 39.4 to 40.1. Provo-Orem, UT was the metro with the lowest median age in 2021, and The Villages, FL, had the highest median age – 68.3. Not surprisingly, The Villages is located in Sumter County.
Regionally, the Northeast was the oldest in 2021 with a median age of 40.4, followed by the Midwest (39), the South (38.6), and the West – which experienced the largest increase, 0.3 years to 37.7.
In addition to aging, the nation is becoming more diverse. Nationally, all race and Hispanic origin groups experienced population increases, with the exception of the White population, which declined slightly by 0.03%. The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population was the fastest-growing race, increasing by 1.54% between 2020 and 2021. Population breakdowns follow:
- White: 260,183,037 (down 79,836 since 2020);
- Black or African American: 49,586,352 (up 0.7%);
- Asian: 23,962,215 (up 1.2%);
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 7,206,898 (up 1.0%); and
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 1,709,860 (up 1.5%).
The Hispanic (any race) population grew by 767,907 from 2020 to 2021. California, Texas, and Florida have the largest Hispanic populations. Only New York (-1.1%) and the District of Columbia (-2.5%) experienced drops in the Hispanic population. Maine (5.4%) and Montana (5.4%) were the states with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations.
There are two major takeaways from the data:
- The nation is growing more diverse; and
- It is getting older.
For affordable housing developers and housing agencies, this indicates continuing growth in the need for senior housing – especially housing that provides the amenities and services required for “aging in place.”
The growth in diversity serves as a reminder that discrimination based on national origin is a violation of federal fair housing law. Owners of multifamily housing must be willing to work with prospects for whom English may not be the primary language and should have policies and procedures in place for doing so.