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. Mimi

    Earth is Here:

    Nobody but ME has any right to tell ME how I feel on any given day! I control my emotions; YOU, the government, NOBODY has ANY right whatsoever to tell me how I should feel about anything!
    Get off your high horse; it's up to one's own moral compass to either feel happy or sad at ObL's death; it's not the topic of this thread, anyway!

    May 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy


    Here, here! The census in my town was *way* messed up; if it was any indication of how the census was taken across our country, the numbers will indeed be skewed.

    And I mean no disrespect to the census *takers*; I cannot imagine having to deal with people with an uncooperative public not wanting to give out information.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Melissa

    Did you think something else would happen when the boomers got older? Hmmm? If you did, there's something wrong with your head.

    May 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rsps

    I find so many grammatical errors in these CNN articles it is almost frightening. Seriously, they should hire better proofreaders.

    May 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James

    You're lucky if you can find somebody by the age of 40. Technology and social networking have made people so flaky nowadays.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • commenttators

      From what I've seen it's only in the big cities where people marry older. It is because they are pursuing careers and working hard to climb the corporate ladder. Then they later realized they are building someone else's dream. At the end, these corporate either promote them or fire them. now, the employee is around 40's, not married, no kids, still single. Your skin starts to sag, belly little popping out, you are not as good looking as you used to be and you don't age as well as Sean Connory. However, you want to date younger women but these younger women are smarter and good looking and totally above your class. Now, at the same time, the older single women in their 40's are struggling, by this time they either find someone or don't want to marry at all and live with 40 cats at home. The single men in their 40's now either gets lucky and finds someone younger or they rarely finds their soul mate in their 40's. What a recipe for failure. Fast forward, 40 years later, these people are in their 80's waiting to die alone. They have worked hard but only to realized that they are building someone else's dream. They wanted to find someone but nowadays people with good character are scarce. Mean while, it's a vicious cycle, other single people look at this and say why get married, divorce rate is 70% anyways. Then people just date (with privileges) for 20 years and no kids then these groups of single people run into the EXACT same problem.

      May 27, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. still_proud_to_be_American

    I passed on having kids in my 30's simply because I was poor at the time and didn't see the future improving anytime soon. I'm optimistic, but not crazy. Sure enough, ten years later the economy falls apart. GOOD CALL.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Themightydousch

      The movie Idiocracy is based on a real premise.

      May 27, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • commenttators

      Or you can just simply move to a place where you can raise your kids with less money.

      May 27, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. xlntcat

    Longer life expectancy effects median age and marrying later makes sense to me. Marriage is hard work and maturity might make for happier unions.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TLeslie

    If your post made sense I think you would be dangerous... Who died needlessly... Bin Ladin or are you referring to the two wars that the other guy who was President before Obama started... You know Dubya...

    May 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Creoleboy

    How can Sarah Palin help this country? She is so dumb. The only reason why it looks like Obama's not doing anything, is because he was left a big nasty plate to clean. That other dummy in Texas, Bush, was the worst president in the world.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BK

    u no wat girls are not stayed in one place . i mean if money can be fruit then girls will be monkey.

    May 27, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • The Last Federalist

      I have no idea what is being said here...

      May 27, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • commenttators

      He who stands on toilet, get's high on pot!

      May 27, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Themightydousch

    Don't forget having less children. This century belongs to China, hopefully they can do a better job.

    May 27, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      Umm...Highly doubtful.

      May 27, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. John

    Utah is the youngest state clearly because Mormons can't stop having babies

    May 27, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    Joey....just please sit in a corner by yourself with a helmet on and keep your mouth shut.... DUMMY!

    May 27, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. PriorSoldier

    Everyone now a days is so quick to call out the president for the country's problems. I say this to everyone who is a President basher.....Go take a Government class in college, (as I have taken several), your ignorace on what role the President really has on the country is all screwed up. IF you were to take even a GOVT 1 course, you'd learn that the President is nothing more than scape goat position, in which whenever the country has an issue that has gone wrong, he or she is immediatly blamed. Seriously people, get educated....did you forget that there is a House and a Senate full of thousands of representatives, that we all voted to elect to represent us. (ok, not all of us voted, again that's our fault for not taking the time to do research on the candidates and not to vote) How many people here, (other than myself...and I'm 29 yrs BTW) actually realize that the House and the Senate create all these bills and legislature, and with the sheer magnitude of thousands upon thousands of bills trying to be passed, the president is overwhelmed to the point where he cannot sit and read through each and everyone to find ones that are corrupt and unjust in time for him to veto it. Quick GOVT class lesson here people,.....businesses pay lobbyists to influence our legislatures and senators, with money...they are paid....yes paid well to make as sure as possible that whomever or whatever representative or bill they wants gets the best chance at being passed, all for THEIR gain....not the people's. Our system has fallen to the disease of corruption. Take this for example....did anyone of you know that, IT Firm based in India....yes INDIA...paid lobbyists to BLOCK a key bill that would have taxed U.S. businesses for outsourcing to other countries! ...So in essence, all it takes is for someone to pay off someone else...regardless if they even live in this country, and boom....U.S. law is ....can be....and probably has been affected by people other than U.S. citizens. Pretty messed up huh? how is that for Patriotism for ya? We need to find these representatives, and lobbyists and fire them, or send them packing to the country they are taking the money from, they have no business calling themselves Americans!

    May 27, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • MJCinNJ

      thousands of reps = 535... 100 in the Senate and 435 in the House. But you took a government class, so I guess you knew...

      The president has less power than people think, but he's not just a figurehead either.

      The valid points you do bring up are lost by the inconsistencies and pompous talk about being more educated than others. Clean up the argument and try again.

      May 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Luke

    ignorance. I am a fifteen year old kid, and still know more about politics than you do. Obama is not what is wrong with country. People that don't like taking responsibility for their own actions is whats wrong with this county. Get educated maybe you will be better off.

    May 27, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
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