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Projection 65plus gif

The United States is growing both in size and age, as shown in our recently released population projections for each decade till 2040. My last post was more about the growth in population across the states and identifying commonalities over the projected time horizon. But as we focus our lens on the future, no matter how we examine the numbers, aging seems to be a fundamental underlying theme. By 2020, one in six people, or more than 16% of the population, will be above 65 years of age. The share of older Americans is expected to keep rising to nearly 20% by 2030.

Much of the growth during the 1990-2010 period was fueled by immigration and births to immigrants. The growth dynamics of the decades ahead though are expected to be very different. With the baby-boomers aging into their senior years, the gains in life-expectancy are becoming more and more noticeable. In addition, the continued low birth rate, delayed childbearing, and decline in immigration will over time affect the shape of the U.S. population’s age-distribution. The charts below reflect this clearly with the population pyramid losing its distinct baby boomer and echo boomer edges and evolving into a smooth wine barrel shape, reflecting less growth from births and immigration.

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Crowd of faces

Our new population projections over 2020, 2030, and 2040 for the nation as well as the 50 states and District of Columbia were released today. Looking forward, the U.S. population is expected to reach 383 million by 2040, but the rate of growth is projected to slow down from nearly 10% over the 2000-2010 decade to 6% between 2030-2040. Similar trends are also expected from most states.

The geographic distribution of this growing population also tells an interesting story. Back in 2000, six of the top ten largest states belonged to the North. By 2040, five of the top ten are expected to be in the South. The slowing down of the northern states along with rapid population growth in the south and west, means that over time the country will become more Southern and Western. This trend in regional population distribution is already evident from the shift in the mean center of population for the United States charted by the Census Bureau from 1790 to 2010, and will continue south-westward in the next few decades.

Rank of states by PopSize

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Year after year, some of the nation’s most dynamic cities are also the nation’s biggest losers when it comes to migrants. Yet rather than waste away, they continue to boom. This widely misunderstood paradox leads to some interesting articles every time the Census Bureau releases a new round of county population and migration estimates, as it did several weeks ago.

New York City is the prime example, as it is for most urban phenomena in the U.S. Four of New York’s five boroughs – all but Staten Island – were among the eight counties with the biggest losses in net domestic migration last year. They’re joined on that list by Cook County, IL (Chicago), Los Angeles County, CA, Miami-Dade County, FL (Miami), and Fairfax County, VA (urban county outside DC with the second highest median income in the country).

Top Counties

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Black households earn more in mid-Atlantic states, particularly in Virginia, than in any other state where Blacks make up a substantial portion of the population. As the previous post noted, neither the region’s overall wealth nor the concentration of federal government jobs in mid-Atlantic states fully accounts for why higher income Black households are disproportionately located in the region. This post explores an alternative explanation by looking into Virginia and mid-Atlantic history.

William Faulkner famously wrote that “the past is never dead, it’s not even past.” Past acts, he argued, continue to resonate in and shape the present. A number of social scientists have found that income and educational attainment is in large part intergenerational, that is, parents’ and grandparents’ socioeconomic status is one of the best determinants of the economic well-being of their children and grandchildren. Beyond the level of the individual or family, Bureau of Economic Analysis data also shows that it usually takes generations for the income per person in one state to change considerably when compared with other states, suggesting that patterns of economic wealth (or deprivation) have both historic roots and predictive value..

Black Poverty Rate by County in 2014

Black Poverty Rate by County

Data is from the Census 2014 American Community Survey, counties with small Black populations and large margins of error were excluded. The national poverty rate in 2014 was 15 percent.

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One of the most persistent statistics in American demography has been the gap that exists between Black Americans’ incomes and the rest of the population. But among those who identified themselves as Black or African American in 2014, there were noticeable geographic differences in their incomes. In states with a substantial Black population, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware had the highest household incomes and lowest  poverty rates among Blacks. While the median household income for Blacks in these three states is still only about 70 percent of the median income for all their households, it is noticeably higher than in many other states where the typical Black household often earns closer to half that of non-Black households.

Median Household IncomeData is from the Census 2014 American Community Survey, accessed using Census DataFerret. Only states where non-Hispanic Blacks made up a significant portion of the population (above the national average) were included in the chart. 

The concentration of upper income Black households in these three neighboring states does not have a simple explanation. The federal government’s significant presence in the region certainly boosts incomes across the board. But other states with high levels of federal salary expenditures, such as West Virginia and Alabama, are not nearly as well off. Additionally, a state being wealthy does not always mean that its Black residents also have high income levels; the median household income in Illinois is only $2,000 less than in Delaware, but the median household income for its Black residents is $12,000 (or 25 percent) less than Black residents’ median household income in Delaware. Read Full Article →

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High-end off-campus student housing under construction in Charlottesville near UVA. Though a one bedroom apartment could cost $1400 a month, the residents these apartments will be marketed to may still report income levels below the poverty line.

In our latest Census Brief, Poverty and postsecondary students in college towns, we discuss why it’s important for college towns to take undergraduate and graduate students into account when looking at community poverty. While poverty estimates explicitly exclude people living in group housing—such as dorms, correctional facilities, or residential nursing homes—these calculations do include college or graduate students who live in off-campus housing. Because many post-secondary students have low incomes, they may contribute to high poverty rates in the areas where they live. As a result, we often see inflated poverty numbers in college towns.

However, it is not enough for localities to explain away high poverty rates by suggesting that they are caused only by the presence of college students. Many college towns have pervasive community poverty that is only somewhat increased by the included off-campus students. Local leaders interested in making informed decisions about combatting poverty, particularly in localities with high populations of post-secondary students, should take a closer look at how much student poverty influences the overall rate.

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Hillary Clinton won a majority in the Virginia Democratic primary on March 1st, while Donald Trump took a plurality of voters in the Republican primary. The Republican primary generated record voter turnout. Nearly 4 times as many votes were cast in the 2016 Republican primary as in the 2012 primary.

Below are a series of maps showing the percentage of the vote captured across the Commonwealth by each candidate.

Donald Trump dominated Southwest Virginia and many other rural counties, but still received a substantial portion of his votes from urban areas, especially Hampton Roads. His best county was Buchanan, which gave him nearly 70% of its votes. His worst county was Falls Church, with just under 16%.


Marco Rubio’s strong counties were roughly opposite to Trump’s. Rubio took nearly 50% of the vote in Arlington County, with Alexandria, Charlottesville, and Richmond close behind. He performed worst in the southwest corner of the state, taking less than 14% in Buchanan County. Read Full Article →
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Loudoun County, in Northern Virginia’s outer suburbs, was Virginia’s fastest growing locality in the 1990s and 2000s, nearly doubling its population each decade. Population growth in Loudoun, as in much of Virginia during the two decades was fueled by people moving out to newly built subdivisions on the edges of the commonwealth’s largest metro areas. Though Loudoun remains the fastest growing locality in the state, according to the 2015 population estimates released today by the Weldon Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group, its growth has slowed considerably.


Several images from Google Street View were embedded in this post to show how different places in Virginia have changed in recent years. The first image is from before 2010 and the second image is of the same place more recently. All of the images are interactive, so you can scroll left and right or zoom to explore. 

Ashburn, Loudoun County




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VA Map Density

Here is a fun map showing the distribution of people across Virginia by the density of their census tract. Each color represents one third of the total population. For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to them as the “densest third,” the “middle third,” and the “sparsest third.” I’m tempted to call them the “urban third,” the “suburban third,” and the “rural third,” but the cutoffs are arbitrary and those names aren’t entirely accurate. It’s probably more accurate to talk about 25% of the population living in “urban” neighborhoods and 25% living in rural areas, with a “suburban half” in between.

The “densest third” live on approximately 1.2% of the state’s land area. The “middle third” occupy about 4% and the “sparsest third” occupy the remaining 94.8%. It’s obvious from the map how Virginia’s explosive population growth over the past few decades has been concentrated in its three major metro areas: Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.

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When George Murdock introduced the phrase “nuclear family,” (meaning a married couple with children) into the American lexicon during the 1950s, nuclear families made up the majority of U.S. households. But in the decades since the 1950s, nuclear families’ dominance has gradually slipped. Today, nuclear families make up less than a quarter of all households, while living alone has become the most common type of household. Though the decline of nuclear families has been widely discussed, it will likely have a number of tangible effects, particularly on housing demand.

The life of the typical adult American


Chart data was calculated from Census surveys using IPUMS, University of Minnesota, as well as from Center of Disease Control vital statistics data.

The decline of the nuclear family is in large part due to changes in the way we live. In 1960, the typical American married at age 21 and became a parent within a year. Today, the typical American marries considerably later at 28 and doesn’t have children until age 30. In addition, while the average retirement age has not changed, the typical American lives a decade longer after retirement today than they did in 1960.

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