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 median age in America reached its highest point ever at 37.2 years, up from 32.9 years in 1990 and 35.3 years in 2000, according to recently released data from Census 2010. By "median age," the U.S. Census Bureau means that half of the American people are now older and half younger than 37.2 years.

According to the Census Bureau’s report Age and Sex Composition: 2010, seven states recorded a median age of 40 or older in 2010. The report also showed that between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. male population grew 9.9%, while the female population saw a 9.5% increase. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people were female (50.8%) and 151.8 million were male (49.2%).

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.