JUNE 30, 2022 – The last two decades have seen the country grow continuously older. Since 2000, the national median age – the point at which one-half the population is older and one-half younger – has increased by 3.4 years, with the largest single-year gain of 0.3 years coming in 2021, bringing it to 38.8 years, according to newly released 2021 Population Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Median age for most states also increased from 2020 to 2021, indicating their populations are getting older overall.
“The states with the lowest median ages saw the largest increases between 2020 to 2021. While Utah remained the youngest state in the nation, the state’s median age increased by 0.3 years from 31.5 to 31.8. Similarly, the District of Columbia had the second-lowest median age but saw the largest increase of 0.5 years from 34.4 to 34.9,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “With birth rates trending downwards and the aging of the Baby Boom and Generation X cohorts, the median age will likely continue to rise in the coming years.”
Only one state’s population – Maine – became slightly younger, as its median age decreased from 44.8 in 2020 to 44.7 in 2021. Although its median age decreased, Maine remained the state with the oldest median age in the nation, after more than two decades of getting older each year. During that same period, 47 states experienced an increase in median age. Montana (40.1), New Hampshire (43.0) and West Virginia (42.8) were the only states that had no change in median age.
The median age in over one-half (57%) of all U.S. counties and equivalents increased, and 74% of counties had higher median ages than the nation. Six counties had median ages greater than or equal to 60 years – Sumter County, Florida (68.3); Kalawao County, Hawaii (65.5); Catron County, New Mexico (61.8); Harding County, New Mexico (60.3); Charlotte County, Florida (60.2) and Jeff Davis County, Texas (60). The counties or equivalents with the youngest median ages in the nation were Lexington City, Virginia (22.2); Todd County, South Dakota (23.0); Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska (23.7); Madison County, Idaho (23.7) and Radford City, Virginia (24.4).
Metropolitan statistical areas consist of one or more whole counties or county equivalents and at least one urban area with a population of 50,000 or more. The median age increased in about 76% of metro areas (290) between 2020 and 2021. The three largest increases were in Lake Charles, LA, where the median age rose from 36.5 to 37.4; Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC, which increased by 0.8 years to 47.8; and San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA, where the median age crossed the 40-years-of-age threshold, increasing from 39.4 to 40.1. At 25.7 years, Provo-Orem, UT, was the metro with the lowest median age in 2021. Conversely, The Villages, FL, had the highest median age – 68.3 years.
Regionally, the Northeast was the oldest in 2021 with a median age of 40.4, followed by the Midwest (39.0), the South (38.6) and the West – which experienced the largest increase, 0.3 years to 37.7.
Note: References to race and Hispanic origin compositions are for race-alone-or-in-combination groups or Hispanic populations of any race unless otherwise specified.
While aging, the nation is also becoming more diverse. Nationally, all race and Hispanic origin groups experienced population increases, apart from the White population, which declined slightly by 0.03%. The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population was the fastest-growing race or Hispanic origin category between 2020 and 2021, increasing by 1.54% in the 12-month period. Hispanic (of any race) was the largest gaining and second-fastest-growing race or Hispanic origin category, increasing by 767,907 or 1.24%.
Other highlights for each race and Hispanic origin category and Puerto Rico:
The race data in these estimates may not be consistent with 2020 Census data. The race categories from each census are reconciled with those race categories that appear in the data from administrative records, which are used to produce population estimates. Due to this, race detail found in the estimates may not match what is found in the decennial census. Additionally, due to methodological changes, the estimates are developed from a base population that combines estimates from Vintage 2020 and 2020 Demographic Analysis with total population from the 2020 Census; no race or Hispanic origin data from the 2020 Census were used in the development of the Vintage 2021 estimates series. For more information, please see the Population Estimates Methodology Statement.
Unless otherwise specified, the statistics refer to the population that reported a race-alone-or-in-combination with one or more races. Censuses and surveys permit respondents to select more than one race; consequently, people may be one race or a combination of races. The detailed tables show statistics for the population by "race alone" and "race-alone-or-in-combination." The sum of the populations for the five race-alone-or-in-combination groups adds to more than the total population because individuals may report more than one race. The federal government treats Hispanic origin and race as separate and distinct concepts. In surveys and censuses, separate questions are asked on Hispanic origin and race. The question on Hispanic origin asks respondents if they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
This is the last release of the vintage 2021 population estimates. Previous estimates for vintage 2021 included national, state, county, metro/micro area, city and town total population and components of change and are available on the Population Estimates page.
In December, the Census Bureau will release 2022 Population Estimates by components of change and the population ages 18 and over for the nation, states and Puerto Rico. The full release schedule for 2022 is available online. With each new release of annual estimates, the entire time series of estimates is revised for all years back to the date of the last census. All previously published estimates (e.g., old vintages) are superseded and archived on the FTP2 site.