NY’s getting a bit grayer

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

The elderly share of America’s population has been growing—but New York is graying a bit more slowly than the rest of the country.

That’s among the trends to be gleaned from the latest U.S. Census estimates of population distributions by age groups at the state and county levels.

As of mid-2018, according to the new data, the proportion of New York residents aged 65 and older stood at 16.6 percent—slightly below the national average of 17.0 percent. New York’s 65-and-over population was up three percentage points over the 2010 level, while the U.S. average rose by 3.9 percentage points.

New York ranked 35th out of 50 states in its elderly population share. Retiree haven Florida topped this category with 23.1 percent of its population aged 65 and over, while Alaska was at the bottom of the list, with 12.2 percent.

Middle to millennial

The median age for all New Yorkers as of 2018 was 39, not far above the national median of 38.2. Both the New York and U.S. age medians increased a single year between 2010 and 2018.

The share of New York’s population in the core millennial age bracket of 25 to 34 years was 14.8 percent, same as the national average. However, New York’s share has grown more slowly since the last census, by 1.1 percentage points compared to 1.5 percentage points nationally.

The Empire State’s population of children under 5 remained lower than the national average—and among the bottom 11 states—at 5.9 percent. With the U.S. birth rate falling, both New York and the nation saw their under-5 shares of population decrease by slightly less than a percentage point. Only nine states had even slight gains in this category, led by North Dakota, Florida and Texas.

Regional divide

As usual, there are some pronounced differences in the age profiles of upstate and downstate areas. Some takeaways concerning older residents:

  • New York City’s 65-and-up population was well below the state and national averages, coming to just 14.8 percent of the total, an increase of 2.6 percentage points over 2010.
  • In downstate suburban counties, the 65+ population was roughly equal to the national average, at 17.0 percent. Within that grouping, the elderly percentage ranked from a low of 15.7 percent in Rockland County to 17.8 percent in Nassau County.
  • Upstate—the 50 counties north of the mid-Hudson Valley region—the 65-and-over population was 18.2 percent of all residents. Only 10 states had more elderly residents as a share of population. The list of counties with large elderly populations was topped by Hamilton County, where elderly residents made up 31.3 percent of the population, followed by Delaware, Columbia, Essex and Warren, all of which had elderly populations of more than 22 percent.

Where the oldsters are

The top five list reflects two characteristics of New York counties with older age profiles: most, such as Delaware and Essex, are both sparsely populated and poor, but some, such as Columbia and Warren, have also become retirement havens for relatively affluent senior citizens.

The concentration of elderly residents in each county is depicted the map below.

Younger generations

New York State’s largest concentration of 25 to 34 year-olds was in New York City—topped by Manhattan, where this core millennial category made up 22.3 percent of all residents, followed by Brooklyn at 18.4 percent, and Queens and the Bronx, where millennials were 16.1 percent (although in Queens, this actually reflected a slight decrease).

The only upstate area with a 25-34 population above the national average was Jefferson County, home to the Fort Drum military base, where the millennial share was 17.1 percent. Elsewhere in upstate, Erie County had the largest 25-34 share, at 14.3 percent. This was below the national and statewide averages, but reflected an exceptionally strong gain of 2.5 percentage points since 2010.

Among upstate’s other larger counties, Monroe and Rensselaer each had millennial population shares of 14.2 percent, but Albany County’s share was only 13.3 percent and had barely grown since 2010. At the other extreme, the share of 25 to 34 year-olds in Broome County’s population decreased slightly to 11.3 percent.

The concentration of millennial population shares by county is illustrated by the map below.

As for the count of children, the under-5 share of New York City’s population equaled the national average at 6.4 percent. Otherwise, the only New York counties above the U.S. average in this category were Rockland (at 8.1 percent) and Orange (6.6 percent), in part reflecting large families in large ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, and Jefferson County (7.8 percent), home to many younger military families at Fort Drum.

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- E.J. McMahon is the Research Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.