U.S. Median Age Highest Ever

Aging Baby Boomers Spurred a 2.5 Year Increase in Just 10 Years

Older couple sharing glasses of wine
Elderly Portion of US Population Continues To Increase, Census Reports. Keith Getter/Getty Images

The “aging of America” continued as the U.S. median age increased to a new historic high of 38.2 years in 2018, up from 37.2 years in 2010, according to the 2018 Population Estimates by demographic characteristics for the nation from U.S. Census Bureau. By "median age," the Census Bureau means that half of the American people are now older and half younger than 38.2 years. The median age for females is 39.4 years and 36.8 years for males, while overall life expectancy has reached 80.1 years.

From 2010 to 2018, the U.S. population’s median age increased by 1.0 years. Among the different race groups:

  • The white alone-or-in-combination population increased by 1.0 years.
  • The black or African American alone-or-in-combination population grew by 1.4 years.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native alone-or-in-combination population increased by 2.2 years.
  • The Asian alone-or-in-combination population increased by 1.7 years.
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone-or-in-combination population increased by 2.6 years.
  • The Hispanic (any race) population experienced an increase in median age of 2.2 years.

North Dakota was the only state to see a decline in its median age, from 37.0 years in 2010 to 35.2 in 2018. Maine continued as the state with the highest median age, going from 42.7 years in 2010 to 44.9 years in 2018. Utah, at just 31.0 years, had the nation’s lowest median age in 2018.

“The nation is aging — more than 4 out of every 5 counties were older in 2018 than in 2010. This aging is driven in large part by baby boomers crossing over the 65-year-old mark. Now, half of the U.S. population is over the age of 38.2,” said Luke Rogers, the Chief of the Population Estimates Branch at the Census Bureau. “Along with this general aging trend, we also see variation among race and ethnicity groups both in growth patterns and aging.”

Between 2000 and 2010, the population 45 to 64 years old grew 31.5% to 81.5 million. This age group now makes up 26.4% of the total U.S. population. The large growth among 45- to 64-year-olds is primarily because of the aging of the baby boom population. The 65-and-older population also grew faster than most younger population groups at a rate of 15.1% to 40.3 million people, or 13.0% of the total population.

While attributing the jump to aging baby boomers, Census Bureau analysts noted that the 65-and-over population actually increased at a slower rate than the overall population for the first time in the history of the census. Baby boomers are considered to be persons born from 1946 to 1964.

According to the Census Bureau, the average retirement age in the U.S. is 62, with the average life expectancy after retirement is 18 years. However, as the U.S. Social Security Administration advises, actually starting to draw Social Security retirement benefits at age 62, rather than waiting until your full retirement age comes with risks and rewards.

"While the median age increased by nearly two and a half years between 1990 and 2000," said Campbell Gibson, a senior Census Bureau demographer, "the growth of the population aged 65-and-over was by far the lowest recorded rate of growth in any decade for this age group."

"The slower growth of the population 65 and over," Gibson said, "reflects the relatively low number of people reaching 65 during the past decade because of the relatively low number of births in the late 1920s and early 1930s."

The increase in median age from 32.9 years in 1990 to 35.3 in 2000 reflects a 4-percent drop in the number of persons between 18 to 34 years old combined with a 28-percent increase in the population between 35 to 64 years of age.

The most rapid increase in size of any age group in the profile was the 49 percent jump in the population 45-to-54-years-old. This increase, to 37.7 million in 2000, was fueled mainly by the entry into this age group of the first of the "baby boom" generation.

Besides data on age, the U.S. profile contains data on sex, household relationship and household type, housing units, and renters and homeowners. It also includes the first population totals for selected groups of Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and Hispanic or Latino populations.

The findings above are from a Census 2000 profile of the U.S. population, released May 15, 2001.

Here are more highlights from Census 2000:

  • The number of males (138.1 million) edged closer to the number of females (143.4 million), raising the sex ratio (males per 100 females) from 95.1 in 1990 to 96.3 in 2000.
  • The nation's housing units numbered 115.9 million, an increase of 13.6 million from 1990.
  • The average household size in 2000 was 2.59, down slightly from 2.63 in 1990.
  • Of the 105.5 million occupied housing units in 2000, 69.8 million were occupied by owners and 35.7 million by renters; the homeownership rate increased from 64 percent to 66 percent.
  • The number of non-family households rose at twice the rate of family households 23 percent versus 11 percent.
  • Families maintained by women with no husband present increased three times as fast as married-couple families 21 percent versus 7 percent. Married-couple families dropped from 55 percent to 52 percent of all households.
  • A nation of loaners? In 1940, less than 8 percent of all Americans lived alone. Today, almost 26 percent live by themselves.