The State of Metropolitan America


After modest growth in the past two decades, America’s senior population will begin to mushroom as the leading edge of the huge baby boom generation turns 65 in 2011. This subject area examines the shifting balance between these older Americans and their younger counterparts across the country, and reveals the age-related concerns that will shape public priorities in different types of regions and communities. Findings on age include:

  • America’s population of “pre-seniors” (age 55 to 64) grew by half in the 2000s. This leading edge of the Baby Boom generation will not only transform the profile of seniors in U.S. society, but will contribute to massive growth rates of the 65-and-over population in the next two decades.

  • Metropolitan areas experiencing the fastest senior growth in the 2000s differed from those with the largest concentrations of seniors. The former group included destinations in the Intermountain West and Southeast that accumulated working-age migrants who are now “aging in place” into seniorhood. The latter group included mostly older industrial areas of the Northeast and Midwest where young populations have declined, leaving seniors as a greater share of the remaining population.

  • Pre-senior populations grew rapidly everywhere. The 55-to-64 year-old population grew fastest in the 2000s in Sunbelt destinations like Raleigh and Austin, as well as areas with natural and cultural amenities like Boise and Madison. Yet even slower-growing major metro areas such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago will witness rapid increases in senior population over the next two decades due to the aging of these leading-edge boomers.

  • Child populations grew in two-thirds of large metro areas in the 2000s, but declined in one-third. This divergence has created metro areas in the Southwest with large child-to-worker ratios, as well as metro areas in the industrial Midwest with larger senior-to-worker ratios. Moreover, boomer aging amid ongoing diversification of U.S. children is creating wide “cultural generation gaps” in metro areas like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Riverside that have young Hispanic and Asian populations, and older white populations.

  • Most growth in the senior population in years ahead will take place in the suburbs. In 2008, 71 percent of pre-seniors lived in suburbs, and their numbers (as well as those of seniors) grew faster in suburbs than in cities during the 2000s. This reflects boomers’ status as America’s “first suburban generation,” and signals their likelihood to remain in these communities as they grow older.

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