State by State: Population Growth by Age, 2010-2015

The U.S. Census Bureau’s July 1, 2015, population estimates revealed significant differences in population growth by age group, highlighting major impacts of population aging since 2010. There were also differences in state-by-state population growth. For example, more than half of states reported fewer working-age adults and fewer children in 2015 than in 2010. At the same time, every state saw large increases in the size of their 65+ populations. This post highlights some of the major age structure shifts since 2010.

Under 18: Children

Nationally, under 18 population declined by more than half a million (-537,168) between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2015, a growth rate of -0.7%.

North Carolina’s child population barely grew, increasing in size by 9,000 or 0.4% between 2010 and 2015. This was the 13th largest numeric increase and 19th fastest growth rate in the nation. The fastest-growing child populations were in the District of Columbia (17%) and North Dakota (16%), a reflection of overall population growth trends—and attracting relatively young populations—to these areas.

Twenty-nine states had fewer children in 2015 than they did in the 2010 Census. The largest numeric losses were in California (-174K) followed by Illinois (-171K), Michigan (-137K), New York (-114K), and Ohio (-102K).

New Hampshire had the most significant percentage decline in the size of its child population over this time period (-8.1%), followed by Vermont (-7.2%), Maine (-6.6%), Connecticut (-6.5%), and Michigan (-5.8%).

Michigan was the only state to be in the top 5 for both numeric declines in number of children (#3) and percentage declines in the size of the child population (#5).

18-24: Young Adults

Nationally, the population ages 18 to 24 grew by 546,000 between 2010 and 2015, an increase of 1.8%. North Carolina’s young adult population increased by 5.3% over this time period, nearly three times the national rate but substantially less than the growth rate of the young adult population in the fastest-growing states: North Dakota (17.8%), Colorado (8.9%), and Connecticut (7.8%).

Between 2010 and 2015, North Carolina had the second largest numeric increase in the 18-24 year old population (+49K) after Texas (+198K). Georgia (+46K), Colorado (+43K), and Arizona (+29K) had the next largest increases in young adult population after North Carolina.

Fourteen states experienced declines in their young adult population over this time period, with the largest losses occurring in Pennsylvania (-57K), New York (-41K), and Louisiana (-19K). The District of Columbia had the largest percentage loss in young adults (-6.2%), followed by Maine (-4.6%), Pennsylvania (-4.5%), Rhode Island (-4.3%), and Louisiana (-4%).

25-54: Prime Working Age

Nationally, the prime working age population increased by over 768,000 individuals between 2010 and 2015, a growth rate of 0.6%. The slower growth in this group is in part because the Gen Xers/Baby Busters are now the major generation in this age group. The large generation of Millennials are just starting to age in as a large generation of Baby Boomers (large gen) are aging out.

North Carolina had the 12th largest numeric increase in prime working age adults, gaining 34,000 between 2010 and 2015, a growth rate of 0.9%. Texas (+702K) and California (+517K) each gained more than half a million individuals of prime working-age over the time period. The states with the next largest gains were Florida (+347K), Colorado (+103K), and Washington (+97K).

Depending on how relatively young or old individuals in this age group are, growth in this population may drive future growth, as individuals 25-39 are the parents of future children.

Twenty-nine states lost working age population; these patterns generally mirror declines in the child population, as well. The largest losses were concentrated in the Midwest: Illinois (-182K), Michigan (-179K), Ohio (-171K), Pennsylvania (-131K), and Wisconsin (-105K).

Fast-growing D.C. (+16%) and North Dakota (+9%) had the largest growth rate for working-age population, reflecting the impact of economic conditions and job opportunities on population growth. The largest percentage declines in the child population were concentrated in New England: Vermont (-7.6%), New Hampshire (-6%), Maine (-5.9%), West Virginia (-5.5%), and Connecticut (-4.7%).

55-64: Mid-Boomers/Potential Early Retirees

The size of the 55-64 year old population increased by 4.4 million or 12% between 2010 and 2015, as the large Baby Boom generation continues to age through this category.

North Carolina had the 11th largest numeric increase (+132K) in this age group. This was the only age group where North Carolina’s growth rate (11.6%) was below the national growth rate (12%).

California (+593K), Texas (+454K), Florida (+316K), New York (+240K), and Illinois (+171K) had the largest numeric increases. No state had fewer 55-64 year-olds in 2015 than they did in 2010.

Utah (18%), Texas (17%), and South Dakota (17%) had the largest percentage increases while West Virginia (1.5%) and Hawaii (2.2%) had the smallest percentage increases.

65+: Early Boomers/Retirees

The 65 and older population increased by 7.5 million between 2010 and 2015 as the large Baby Boom generation began aging into this category in 2010. This was a growth rate of 18.6%, the fastest growth of any of the age categories explored here. All states had larger 65+ populations in 2015 than in 2010.

The 65+ population was the fastest growing age group in every state except for four:

  • In Connecticut and South Dakota, the 55-64 age group was the fastest growing.
  • In D.C. and North Dakota, the child population was the fastest-growing.

North Carolina had the 5th largest numeric increase in 65+ population, gaining 283,000 residents in this age group between 2010 and 2015. Only California (+942K), Florida (+683K), Texas (+623K), and New York (+346K) had larger numeric increases.

North Carolina’s 65+ population grew by 23% over this time period, faster than the national average of 19% and the 13th fastest growth rate among the states. Alaska (33%), Nevada (30%), Colorado (29%), Arizona (27%), and Georgia (26%) had the largest percentage increases in 65+ population.

Fast growing D.C. and North Dakota had the smallest numeric increases in 65+ population, with each gaining fewer than 10,000 residents in this age group since 2010. North Dakota also had the smallest growth rate for this population (10%), reflecting the relative appeal of this location for younger, working-age individuals.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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