Americas Regional Demographics in the 00 Decade: The Role of Seniors, Boomers and New Minorities

Title: Americas Regional Demographics in the 00 Decade: The Role of Seniors, Boomers and New Minorities

Date: 11/27/2006

Author(s): William H. Frey

Executive Summary:

In the first decade of the 21st Century, it is becoming clear that America's demography will become far more multifaceted than we have known in the past. Two of the main demographic engines, propelling these changes, are discussed in this report: first, we examine the rise in America's senior population, which will be propelled by the beginning wave of aging Baby Boomers; and second, the rise of new minorities, Hispanics and Asians, that is propelled by the huge, recent immigration to the United States. Both of these trends will exert strong impacts on our society and economy for years to come. The purpose of this report is to show how these changes are now playing out nationally and across America's regions. As the report reveals, the sharp demographic shifts that were heralded right after the 2000 Census was taken were just the tip of the iceberg, and only a few years later America has changed even more dramatically in ways that make these demographic segments important ones to watch. They reflect new ways to look at America's consumers, voters and communities of citizens that are segmented across our national landscape.

Following the report's introduction, Part II of the report focuses on the upcoming age wave and begins by profiling today's senior population: how it is unique from those in recent periods, and how it is spread across the national landscape. It then turns attention to the ‘pre-senior' age group, 55-64, the early Baby Boomers that are occupying this decade. The uniqueness of their demography and geographic shifts compared to the past are discussed, along with speculation about what this means for the size and character of the nation's seniors in subsequent years. our discussion of aging then moves to a more specific examination of future spatial shifts for seniors, by presenting projections for different areas and their key underlying components: aging in place and migration. These components determine the uneven nature of the large senior growth that different states, metropolitan areas, cities and suburbs will experience over the coming decades. This is followed by an examination of population shifts between central cities and suburbs of the older population. We address the question: how will cities benefit, demographically, from these senior migration and aging in place patterns?

Among the findings from this part of the study is an interesting contrast: states that exhibit the fastest senior growth are not necessarily the ones that have the highest percentage of seniors. The reason is that states with high senior shares have typically experienced one or more decades of sustained declines in their younger populations. This leaves seniors, who are far less mobile than people in their 20s and 30s, remaining behind. In fact, many of the states with large shares of seniors tend to have more seniors in the mature senior age group of 75 and above.

Another finding from our projections shows how the mix of aging in place versus migration affect areas quite differently. States like New York, which have relatively low aging in place and substantial out-migration of seniors, will exhibit relatively lower levels of senior growth, compared with states like Arizona which rank high on both measures. Yet even states like New York will see sharp gains in their senior populations as the baby boom generation reaches its senior years.

Suburban seniors are much less diverse on demographic attributes than those living in cities. In older cities in the Northeast and Midwest, the differences are even more pronounced. Among pre-seniors, suburban residents are decidedly more well off economically in terms of educations and income and substantially more likely to live in married couple families than their city counterparts.

We also show that as baby boomers enter seniorhood, suburban areas will undergo a substantial aging. In projections of Philadelphia and Chicago, for example, suburbs begin to age faster than cities, even though both cities start out having older populations than their suburbs.

Part III of this report focuses on America's new minorities, Hispanics and Asians, as recent immigration serves to swell their ranks. We profile both of these groups with respect to key demographic attributes, their impact on migrant populations in the United States, and how their rapid dispersal is affecting racial and ethnic diversity in different parts of the country.

This geographic dispersal is broad, especially for Hispanics whose members now comprise at least 5 percent of the population in 1 out of 3 of the nation's counties. At the same time, many Asians and Hispanics remain clustered in traditional ‘immigrant magnet' metropolitan areas. It is in those areas where these new minorities comprise significant shares of the market. The rise of these groups has raised the question: Do businesses, politicians and public servants need to be more facile in Spanish or Asian languages to succeed in these areas? Yet, recent data show that the vast majority of Hispanics and Asians speak English at home, and those that do not, can communicate in English very well.

These new minorities are also relatively young compared with the rest of the population, suggesting that racial generation gaps are emerging in areas where they live in large numbers. That is, young adults up to age 40 in these areas, show a strong representation of new Hispanic and Asian households, whereas the ‘over 40' crowd is still dominated by white and black Baby Boomers.

In contrast to the new minorities, we see distinct patterns of residence for African Americans and whites. The former group continues the strong 1990s tendency to relocate back to the South countering the opposite movement which characterized much of the 20th Century. This shift is enlarging African American populations in ‘New South' economic growth engines like Atlanta, GA, orlando, FL, Charlotte, NC, as well as strong traditional magnets such as Washington, DC, Dallas and Houston, TX. In addition, there has been a dispersal of African Americans to other rapidly growing areas outside the South region including Las vegas, NV and Minneapolis, MN.

In comparison to the other race and ethnic groups, we see that the white Americans' population shifts are heavily dominated by domestic migration. With lower fertility and lower immigration, white geographic shifts are more like a ‘zero sum' game. That is, in migration dominated gains of whites in some areas are countered by out-migration dominated losses in others. Whites tend to relocate toward the interior West and the Southeast. Areas with extensive gains include Phoenix, AZ, Atlanta, GA, Dallas, Tx, Las vegas, Nv and interior counties of California. White shifts for the first part of the 2000-10 decade appear to be driven by higher housing costs on the coasts.

The last part of this report puts these findings in context and presents a typology intended to serve as a "roadmap" for understanding the demographic dynamics of Baby Boomer induced aging and immigrant induced new minority growth, and their effects on the markets in different parts of the country. They include 11 "New Minority" states, where Hispanics and Asians are and will continue to be a predominant part of the population; 13 Faster Growing states, with considerable white and minority growth, areas that take on a traditional suburban development feel; 7 "White-Black Slower Growing" states, located in both the Midwest and South where African Americans represent the major minority and there is slow growth overall; and 20 "Mostly White Slower Growing" states, which, while not gaining seniors or Boomers at a fast rate, will experience the most significant aging due to the out-migration of their younger populations.

Overall, the results show that as the United States progresses further into the 21st Century, there will be both ‘younging' and ‘aging' in different parts of the country and that within each part, distinct demographic dynamics will affect change in that region's cities, suburbs and rural areas.