Not Getting Any Younger!

By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication August 18, 2021

The US Census Bureau continues to release results of the 2020 Census. The information is crucial to effective corporate planning, as well as to understanding the dynamics of the nation’s population and potential policy needs or implications. One recent dataset describes overall population growth and trends in the number of people under age 18.

As of 2020, the Census indicates there were 331.4 million people living in the United States, up 7.4% from 308.7 million in 2010. Growth slowed notably compared to the 2000-2010 decade, when the US population expanded by 9.7%. In fact, the past ten years marked the second lowest growth rate since the Census began in 1790.

Patterns vary substantially by region, with the Northeast and Midwest up by only 4.1% and 3.1%, respectively, while the West expanded 9.2% and the South grew 10.2%. (Part of this variation is explained by differences in race and ethnicity, which I will delve into soon.)

Another notable pattern is the shrinking number of young people (under 18 years old). There were over a million fewer in this age category in 2020 than there were in 2010. Numbers of births and general fertility rates have been dropping since 2007, and the result is fewer children. The explanation for this downward trend is multifaceted, including lower numbers of women of childbearing ages as baby boomers and their echo generations age. The Great Recession also played a role, as financial uncertainty tends to decrease births, and the pandemic was another minor factor (most of that effect will be felt in the next round).

In Texas, total population rose from 25.1 million in 2010 to 29.1 million in 2020, a four-million-person increase. The state’s 15.9% expansion is more than double the US rate, due partly to births and partly to in-migration from other parts of the US and elsewhere. (We will know more about the specifics when additional data is made available.)

Of particular importance, the number of residents under 18 in Texas rose by nearly 413,000 (6%) between 2010 and 2020, in direct opposition to the substantial national loss. This strong growth in the number of young people positions the state well for future economic expansion opportunities as long as sufficient attention and resources are directed toward ensuring top-quality education from public schools and beyond through higher education and technical training.

The new information highlights the effects of changing demographic patterns. Many parts of the nation face aging populations, with fewer people for the future workforce both due the ongoing retirement of the baby boom generation and fewer children and young people. It will be challenging to deal with these complex phenomena, but at least we can see them coming. Stay safe!