Americans getting older, marrying later, census data show
Husband-wife married couples are heads of 48.4% of U.S. households, down from the 51.7% mark 10 years ago
May 26th, 2011
12:02 AM ET

Americans getting older, marrying later, census data show

America is older and more middle-aged-looking than ever before.

That’s the take-away from a new dump of data the U.S. Census Bureau released on Thursday morning as part of its efforts to quantify American life.

In demographer-speak, the median age of the United States is now 37.2, according to census data. That means there are the same number of people older than that age as younger. Or, in everyday-language, the country is approaching that ripe old age of 40.

“Forty makes it sound like a middle-aged country,” said Carl Schmertmann, an economics professor at Florida State University’s Center for Demography and Population Health.

The current U.S. median age is older than ever before, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

Go back to 2000 - ah, to be young again - and the median age of the country was  35.3, he said. But don’t let all this middle-age talk make you think the country is aging uniformly.

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The Northeast is generally much older than the Southwest. In this sense, the nation is dividing itself by age, said Frey.

“There’s a splitting apart of the country in terms of places that are undergoing extreme aging and those that are undergoing some aging,” he said.

Utah, for example, is the youngest state, with a median age of 29.2. Maine is the oldest. Median age: 42.7 years.

(For trivia fans, Frey says a state has never had a median age over 40 until now. West Virginia was the oldest state 10 years ago, he said, with a median age of 38.9. In 2010, West Virginia's median age was 41.3).

There’s an interesting racial component to this, too. Older generations of Americans, particularly those in the Northeast, tend to include few people who identify as Hispanic. Meanwhile, among younger people, the Hispanic population is booming.

Schmertmann, who is a baby boomer, said he sees this at his university. He has almost no Hispanic peers, but a huge chunk of his students is Hispanic.

This plays out in the stats as well, according to Frey’s analysis.

The median age for non-Hispanic white Americans is 41. For people who identify as Hispanic, it’s 27.

Among the other tidbits and factoids from the census:

Fewer households are headed by a husband and wife

Husband-wife married couples are the heads of only 48.4% of U.S. households, according to the census. That’s down from the 51.7% mark 10 years ago, said Frey.

Overall, household types are getting more diverse, with young people choosing to stay single longer and have kids later.

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Husband-wife families with children make up only a fifth of households in the 2010 census. Compare that with the 1960s, when more than four in 10 households fit into that cookie-cutter mold.

Mexicans make up a greater share of the Hispanic population

In 2010, 63% of the U.S. Hispanic population is Mexican in origin, up 4.5% from 10 years ago, according to Frey’s analysis. “If you look at the Hispanic population, it’s a little more Mexican than what it was before,” he said.

More than half of the country's Hispanic population lives in three states: Texas, California and Florida. New York, Los Angeles and Houston have the highest numbers of Hispanic people.

There are more than 50 million Hispanic people in the country; this demographic group accounted for more than half of all U.S. growth in the past 10 years, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Indian immigrants are rivaling the Chinese

Chinese people still make up the biggest part of the U.S. Asian population, but Indian-Americans are catching up and now have the No. 2 spot.

“They’re more dispersed, and they’re growing more rapidly,” Frey said of Indian immigrants. “Sometime soon they’re going to overcome the Chinese, who have a higher share of the Asian population.”

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soundoff (110 Responses)
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    I am 35 and have never been married:

    May 27, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
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