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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Filed under: Census
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Glades2

    But that's a good thing – those who marry later are shown to do better than those who marry much younger, and those who are middle-age have the experience that those who are much younger don't have – that's why those in charge of any kind of organization must be old enough because experience is VERY necessary in order to do a job well, and that doesn't mean younger adults should be ignored, but instead they should always remember that learning from those who are older and more experienced is the best way to learn any job...

    May 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldpeoplesuck

      moron. the best way to learn A-N-Y-THING is by your own hand through trial and error

      May 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MIKE

    Can't afford kids

    May 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jC

    The "exclusive female welfare system", i.e. the family courts, will continue to ensure that more and more men will not be getting married or having children. The Family Courts, in this regard, promote men becoming condom wearing "players"...fact.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clayton

      Too many states are mommy states anyways.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jC

    Joey, you're a moron...make sure to finish you GED buddy...

    May 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • commenttators

      Don't you mean finish junior high?

      May 27, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. brown

    The s ex is sooo much better when your older 🙂

    May 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. truth

    Because no one can afford kids.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sendy

    Why don't you blame the last President for the mess he put us in but no youvare blaming President Obama. He is doing a fantastic job considcering the mess the whole state was in when he took office. And yes get Palin in and she doesn't even know where New York is lcoatd on the map.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      Slow down there baby...when you type so fast you read uneducated!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jambazi

    If you separate/ divorce your wife/girlfriend, she is virtually guaranteed to get 20% of your paycheck or even more untill the child is 18. She can still hit you up for college expenses after that, as well as alimony for the rest of her life. Sometimes, they can even give her a percentage of your retirement income. Not to mention the emotional pain of being separated from your kids because a mother basically has to be pronounced brain dead or be on death row before they can award custody to the father.

    If you are luck and stay married, you have the huge expense of raising a child to look forward to, including the exhorbitant child care costs, groceries and college tuition.

    Do you still want kids?

    May 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hans

      Sounds like you got it all figured out. Enjoy your single, kid-less life.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dave

    You can't be serious- there is no logical progression to that thought whatsoever. I feel sorry for you; they say ignorance is bliss, but sometimes it's gotta hurt you.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bad luck truck

    you guys just don't get it. i remember right after 9/11 i was watching some cable news channel and i saw palestinians dancing in the streets giving out candy, i was disgusted and embarrassed (im muslim). i understand why they hate american foreign policy and all that. but the lost of human life is nothing to celebrate. so after osama was killed then i saw on some cable news show americans dancing, woo whoing, gathering at the white house like its woodstock. i was just as disgusted and embarrassed seeing those fellow americans celebrating like those palestinians were. i repeat the lost of human life is nothing to celebrate, be it one or a thousand. not trying to get preachy but the quran says if you kill one person its no different than killing all of humanity. alot people don't get what it means.. what i think it means is if you kill another human being then you're killing your humanity. us having our brains should separate us from the animals but we're worse.. brad pitt in the movie troy was right..."we, men are wretched things."

    May 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Israeli Guy

      Good Post and very interesting view point.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ramon


    May 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ramon

    i am entering middle age. i can tell you stright why people are not marrying and not having kids. Employment security. before 1990 this country had very strong employment security. and i dont define that as employment. I define that
    as in you could nt get fired. or easily. or there had to be a legal format for it. Or etc,. but with the onset of employment at will in all these states. people have to wait and build a small fortune before they get married. most people cant get married unless they have 20 k in the bank too stave employment. Or have outside revenue exceeding 2 k a month. to stave unemployment. for 2 kids you need thousands month. Its unecomonical to have children. Also for a person to have stable marriage they need massive savings. or there will be arguements. This all comes from employment unsecurity.

    if the employee feels his job is secure for 10 or 20 years like our grandparents or parents. then they would get married in there late 20's end of story.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ramon

    i say dump employment at will. And turn to contract employment. Where an employee is contracted by law after 8 months of work. This negates.....the small fortune the indidvual has to build for marriage and house. And then this gives plenty of time for you to can some one. after that the person has to ! be employed for 5 years minimum. This allows the person to get married or buy a house with out having to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait. like me i have to wait and wait and wait. to till i become indpendent of employment. i know im not alone....

    time to return to employment security. meaning contractual employment.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ramon

    dump employment at will

    i say dump employment at will. And turn to contract employment. Where an employee is contracted by law after 1 year of labor. This negates.....the small fortune the indidvual has to build for everything marriage and house and car.

    And then this gives plenty of time for you to fire some one. after that the person has to !

    be employed for 5 years minimum. This allows the person to get married or buy a house with out having to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and build a small fortune. like me i have to wait and wait and wait. to till i become indpendent of employment. i know im not alone....

    time to return to employment security. meaning obligated employment.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • freedom

      You say "dump employement at will... contract employment..." Basically you're saying to have government employment. Perhaps you want communism. There are plenty of other countries offering this. "At will" goes both ways. As an employee you can quit anytime you want if you don't like it. Perhaps picking up animal waste wasn't your cup of tea therefore you can quit, you don't have to keep shoveling crap until your "5 year contract" runs out. No one holds a gun to your head. Government employment is ruining this country, we're $3 trillion in the hole, growing everyday. There is a point of no return and we're approaching it. Do you know what happens when our government can no longer pay its debts? We're going to find out. This country offers everyone the opportunity to make something of themselves by WORKING HARD. YOU can do this, stop complaining and get a real job.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mary

    The IRONY of this whole conversation is that we are in debate over what the US Census data has provided. That is a joke in itself as anyone who worked the Census knows. Due to the number of uncooperative, uneducated re: Census, and unkind people in this country, the numbers delived to Obama on 12/31/10 were most definitely very inaccurate. The most unfortunate part? Most of the folks who were jerks needed the most federal funding. And, the "Hispanic Question" data can be addressed by looking at how the Census worded the question. My experience was most "Hispanics" were confused by the question & asked me how to answer. Better luck next decade Census Folks!

    May 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
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