(April 2003) There were 35 million Americans age 65 or older counted in the 2000 Census. One quarter of these elderly Americans live in one of three states: California, Florida, and New York. Six other states — Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have more than 1 million elderly each and account for another one-quarter of Americans age 65 or older. These nine states are also the most populous, and include about one-half of the total U.S. population. Sparsely populated states such as Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota have very small elderly populations — less than 100,000 each in 2000.
But the states with the most elderly do not necessarily have the oldest population age profiles. California is still a relatively young state even though it has the greatest number of elderly residents: Less than 11 percent of the state’s total population was age 65 or older in 2000. In contrast, nearly 18 percent of Florida’s population was age 65 or older, the highest proportion of any state (see table). The older population also exceeded 15 percent of the populations of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While southern states are regarded as retirement magnets, states in the Northeast and Midwest have among the largest proportional share of the elderly.
States Ranked by Percent of Population Age 65 or Older, 2000
|Rank||State||Total resident population (thousands)||Population age 65+ (thousands)||Percent of population age 65+|
|31||District of Columbia||572||70||12.2|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Demographic Profiles: Census 2000, accessed at www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2001/demoprofile.htm, on Sept. 19, 2001).
The differences in states’ age profiles are determined primarily by fertility and migration — mortality is fairly uniform among states. States with relatively high fertility rates, such as Utah, tend to have a younger age profile: A smaller proportion of state residents are age 65 or older. Migration, both internal and international, has a large impact on the elderly population’s distribution. States in the Midwest and Northeast have seen steady outflows of younger people looking for job opportunities. As these younger people move south and west, the older population is left to “age in place.” California has been a traditional destination for state-to-state and international migrants, which has kept its population relatively young. States that have attracted older retirees, Florida in particular, have greater proportions of older residents.
Christine L. Himes is associate professor of sociology and senior research analyst at the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University.
Excerpted from PRB’s Population Bulletin “Elderly Americans,” by Christine L. Himes.