It’s an exciting week for those of us who study U.S. demographics!
After pandemic-related delays, the U.S. Census Bureau has finally released a new batch of data from the 2020 Census. While the Demographic and Housing Characteristics data isn’t a current snapshot, it still gives us the most comprehensive and granular information available for the U.S. population.
From these data, we found some interesting trends over the decade:
- The U.S. population has aged substantially. The share of people ages 65 and older rose from 13% in 2010 to nearly 17% in 2020. The state with the youngest median age in 2020 was Utah (31.3), while the oldest places were Maine (45.1) and Puerto Rico (45.2).
- Americans are increasingly living alone. As a population ages, more people tend to live alone. As the United States has aged, the share of one-person households rose between 2010 and 2020 (from 26.7% to 27.6%). The smallest share of single-person households in 2020 was in Utah (19.6), while the highest shares were in North Dakota (32.8) and Washington, D.C. (43.7).
- Childless households are more common. The share of households with children fell to less than 27% in 2020, down from about 33% in 2010. The places with the smallest share of households with children were Maine (24.3) and Washington, D.C. (20.7). Utah (39.7), with the largest share of households with kids, was also the state with the smallest share of one-person households.
- Homeownership rates are down overall—but up for some groups. Rates declined by 2 percentage points over the decade, but rose for the youngest (15 to 24) and oldest (75 and older) age groups. Homeownership fell most for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander householders (-3.4 percentage points), Black householders (-2.8) and American Indian/Alaska Native householders (-2.4)—increasing longstanding, structural inequities in U.S. housing.
- Fewer people live in institutions. The share (and number) of people living in institutional group quarters, such as correctional facilities and nursing homes, declined. Meanwhile, the share (and number) living in non-institutional group quarters, such as military barracks, college dorms, emergency shelters, and other non-institutional quarters, increased. The decline in institutional group quarters population was led by a drop in the population living in correctional facilities.
The new data, officially called the 2020 Census Demographic and Housing Characteristics File (DHC), provides population and housing data for local communities. DHC includes detail on age, sex, race, ethnicity, families, households, homeownership, and housing occupancy/vacancy.
The 2020 Census was intended to count everyone “once, only once, and in the right place.” Overall, the population count was extremely accurate, by several measures. However, disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, wildfires, and other events made the 2020 count one of the nation’s most difficult. Because of the challenges, some local areas may have inaccurate counts. In addition, there are known undercounts in the data—notably among young children, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Some Other Race populations, and among American Indian/Alaska Natives living on reservations.* Significant overcounts were noted among the population ages 50 and older as well as among Asian and White populations. In addition, in 2020 the count of people living in group quarters was disrupted and under/over-counts may vary by location and type of group quarters.
Despite the limitations of the 2020 Census data, it is still the most accurate and granular data we have about the nation’s population. What we see from the newest data is further confirmation of America’s place in a global trend of aging. Many of the changes over the decade reflect a population that’s simply growing older.