Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 3 » Migration and Geographic Distribution - Geographic Distribution, Why Does Age Distribution Vary Across Areas?, Retirement Migration, Why People Move In Later Life

Migration and Geographic Distribution - Geographic Distribution

age percent population age populations

Focusing on the geographic distribution of the older population at the state level, two different questions can be asked. First, which states have the largest number of older people? The answer to this question is quite unremarkable: the states with the largest total populations tend to have the largest populations of persons age sixty-five and over. In 2000, the four largest states (California, Texas, New York, and Florida) contained 31 percent of the total U.S. population and 31 percent of the elderly population. More than half (52 percent) of all senior citizens live in the nine largest states (the four listed above plus Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and New Jersey). Among the nine states with the largest populations of older people, only three are in the Sunbelt.

The more interesting question about variations across states concerns the proportion of the population that is age sixty-five and over. For the United States as a whole, 12.4 percent of the population was age 65+ in 2000. But only two states (Indiana and Tennessee) had exactly this percentage of their populations in this age category. The state with the oldest population was, of course, Florida, which stands out with 17.6 percent of its population age 65+. But the other states with especially old populations were not states that attract a lot of retired migrants. In 2000, seven of the ten states with the oldest populations were in the Northeast or Midwest (Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Maine, South Dakota, and Connecticut), while three were in the South (Florida, West Virginia, and Arkansas) and none were in the West. At the opposite end of the distribution, the states with the youngest populations were Alaska (5.7 percent age 65+) and Utah (8.5 percent age 65+). All fourteen states in which older people made up less than 12 percent of the population were in the West and the South. As suggested by the above discussion, the oldest regions of the United States were the Northeast (13.8 percent) and Midwest (12.8 percent), and the youngest were the West (11.0 percent) and South (12.4 percent).

Excluding the extremes (Florida and Alaska), the proportion of older adults in state populations ranged from 8.5 percent to 15.6 percent in 2000. Moving to areas smaller than states, however, much greater variations are apparent. Some counties could be classified as "gerontic enclaves." In two counties (one in Florida and one in North Dakota), over one-third of the population was age 65+ in 2000, and there were fifty-seven counties in which over one-fourth of the population is in this age group. Half of these counties were in Florida, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The three counties where less than 3 percent of the population was sixty-five and older were in Georgia and Alaska. Clearly, more than temperature is determining the proportion of older adults in various geographic locations.

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