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10 Interesting Things The 2020 Census Says About Seniors

Published: October 8, 2021

The 2020 Census Might Surprise You

I was recently reading parts of my son’s old American history textbook (I know, I do weird things). The last chapter pointed out that during the 1960s and 1970s, and even into the 1990s, the average age of Americans kept getting younger and younger.

My, how things have changed! Today, due to decreasing fertility and increasing longevity, our country is getting older. In the ten years from 2008 through 2018 (according to the latest Profile of Older Americans) the 65-and-over population has increased from 38.8 million to 52.4 million people — a 35% increase.

That’s the general trend. Here are some interesting details:

1.  Today, older women outnumber older men in America by about 30 million to 24 million. That’s because women live longer than men. At age 65 an American women has an average life expectancy of 20.7 years. An American male just 18.1 years.

2.  In total, some 16% of Americans are 65 and over. But the U. S. has plenty of company. The population is aging on every continent in the world. Europe currently has the oldest population of all, with 18% of its population age 65 and over.

3.  What are the oldest states? According to the U. S. Census Bureau, Maine is number 1, with 21.2% of its population in the 65-and-over group. Maine is followed by Florida (20.9%), West Virginia (20.5%), and Vermont (20.0%). The youngest state is Utah with only 11.4% of its population climbing into that cohort.

2020 census

 4.  For perspective, the U. S. population as a whole increased 7.4% from 2010 to 2020. Four states have lost population: West Virginia, Illinois, Vermont and Connecticut. All the other states have gained, but some more than others. Because of population shifts, Texas is now slated to gain two congressional seats. North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Montana and Colorado will each gain one. As an offset California will actually lose one representative. So will New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia. 

5.  Some 69% of men age 65 and over are married, compared to 47% of women. So the complementary figure: just 21% of men live alone, compared to 34% of women who live by themselves.

6.  Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased their share of the 65-and-over set, from 19% in 2008 to some 23% today. Still, the 65-and-over population is less diverse than the rest of the country. Three quarters of Americans age 65 and over are white, while 9% are African American, 8% Hispanic, 4% Asian. That compares to the general population where 62% are white, 17% Hispanic, 13% African American and 5% Asian.

7.  The retired community is wealthier than the general population, due in large part to Social Security and other benefit programs. Only 9.7% of people 65 and over live below the poverty level, compared to some 15% of all Americans. 

8.  There are at least 10 million Americans 65 and over who are still working. That represents about 23% of the men and 16% of women.

9.  Historically speaking, the labor participation rate for older men declined steadily throughout the 20th century, sinking to just 16% by 1985. But since then the rate has gone back up — now to 23%. For older women the working rate was below 10% for all of the 20th century. Since 2000 the rate has risen to 16%.

10.  One last, but uncomfortable fact: Some 40% of men age 65 – 74 are obese (BMI of 30 or more) while even more older women (44%) are considered obese. 

Whatever else may be true we know one thing. As time goes on, there will be more and more of us. Today, the U.S. boasts some 55 million people age 65 and over, and counting. By 2040 the figure will rise to 81 million and by 2060 some 95 million Americans will be collecting Social Security, relying on Medicare — and blogging about their favorite activities, deepest concerns and most pressing issues.

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About The Author
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits spent 40 years in New York book and magazine publishing before retiring to Bucks County, PA, in 2017. He now volunteers in the school system, produces the baby boomer blog Sightings Over Sixty . . . and is just starting to chase after grandchildren.
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