Aging America: The Cities That Are Graying The Fastest
Yet the graying of America is not uniform across the country — some places are considerably older than others. The oldest metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of the 2010 census by demographer Wendell Cox, have twice as high a concentration of residents over the age of 60 as the youngest. In these areas, it’s already 2020, and some may get to 2050 aging levels decades early.
For the most part, the oldest metropolitan areas — with the exception of longtime Florida retirement havens Tampa-St. Petersburg and Miami — tend to be clustered in the old industrial regions of the country. These are regions that have suffered mightily from deindustrialization and the movement of people toward the South and West. These metro areas now make up eight of the 10 oldest among the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas.
The oldest city in America is Pittsburgh, where 23.6% of the metro area’s population is over 60. The old steel capital is followed by such former robust manufacturing hubs as Buffalo (No. 3 on our list), Cleveland (fifth), and Detroit (ninth).
How did these places get so old? The biggest factor: migration deficits. More Americans have been leaving these cities than moving there, and people who move tend to be younger. Meanwhile these graying cities attract relatively few immigrants from abroad. Pittsburgh, for example, ranks 34th among the 51 biggest metro areas in net domestic migration, losing some 2% of its population to other places over the past decade. It also stands 50th in foreign immigration over the same period. Buffalo has fared even worse: it’s 40th in domestic migration and 49th in new foreign-born residents.
Another factor is low birth rates. An aging population, not surprisingly, does not produce many children. In 2000 only three U.S. metro areas had more elderly than children under the age of 15 (Pittsburgh, Miami and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.). The 2010 Census showed we now have 10, with the addition of Buffalo, Boston, Cleveland, Hartford, Providence, Rochester and San Francisco to the first three. Thus the elderly population is overtaking the younger population not only in Florida’s retirement havens, but in a number of Rust Belt and Northeastern cities — and the West Coast may not be far behind.
The graying trend, like aging itself, is pervasive. The number of children relative to elderly declined over the past decade in every one of the 51 largest major metropolitan areas.
But not all of America’s most rapidly aging cities are in Florida and the Rust Belt. Even the New York metro area, usually associated with the “young and restless,” is also getting senescent, with an elderly population nearly equal to that of the young. It ranks 15th on our list of the grayest cities. This is surprising, since like more-old-than-young San Francisco (17th place), immigration from abroad has been strong.
Other metropolitan areas widely celebrated as magnets for the young and hip are also aging rapidly. For example, while Portland remains younger than average, it rose from 36th oldest in 2000 to 29th oldest in 2010. Even Seattle got older, rising from 39th place in 2000 to 34th in 2010.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Old State House, Boston, MA, USA
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