NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Median Age Varies Among The States

May 25, 2001

The 2000 census has turned up some interesting data on the nation's generational divide: some states are aging much faster than others -- and some much more slowly.

  • The U.S. median age was 35.3 years in 2000.
  • But the median age in the oldest four states -- West Virginia, Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania -- was about 38 years.
  • Utah is by far the youngest state -- with a median age of 27.1 years.
  • Runners up in the youngest category are Texas and Alaska -- which have median ages of 32.3 and 32.4 years, respectively.

Because of its attraction for retirees, Florida had for years been the oldest state. But an influx of younger immigrants there dislodged it from that spot, which West Virginia now occupies.

West Virginia lies in what demographer William Frey calls an "old, white belt," running from New England through northern Appalachia to the northern Great Plains. He explains that people in these regions tend to be largely white, have fewer children and live longer.

By contrast, Sun Belt states are attracting a disproportionate number of young adults with their children. That mutes the aging effect of retirees moving to the milder climates.

So contrary to popular belief, the rule seems to be: older where it's colder, and younger in the sun.

Source: Paul Overberg and Haya El Nasser, "Census Tracks Geographical Generation Gap," USA Today, May 25, 2001.


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