The Numbers Behind Burd Home Health’s Expansion to Arizona
In 2016, the most recent year of census data available, the overall population of the US increased by 2.2 million people. This is due to both natural growth (more babies being born than people dying in a given year)(1) and immigration, which will become an increasingly important factor driving US population growth through 2035 (2).
But this simple increase in population does not show how some states are growing in population while others are declining in population. If we look on a state level, we see that Americans are moving out of some states and into others, which is having a major impact on the demographic makeup of both the source and the recipient states of this migration.
Today we're going to examine some of the key trends in population demographics in the US, and in particular which states will be most affected by the increasing number of older people in the country.
Which states are growing the fastest in population?
Overall, the population of the US is growing, albeit at a slower rate than before. 2016 saw just a 0.7% increase in population growth, falling in stark contrast to the peak of the baby boom years at 1.8%. In fact, 2016 had the slowest rate of change in 80 years!
Digging a little deeper into this statistic reveals that some states (including Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Florida and Washington) contribute more to overall growth than others.
For example, in Arizona the total population grew by a rate of 1.7% in 2016, which is more than double the national population growth rate of 0.7%. This particular state is becoming more populous, which is due primarily to new residents moving into the state rather than due to an increase in the birth rate (1).
Which are shrinking?
On the other hand, there are some states where the population is actually shrinking. The same census survey of 2016 found that the states which are experiencing the greatest population loss are Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New York, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wyoming.
As an example, if we look at New York then we see that there has been a slight decline in population by approximately 1,900 residents in 2016, which is an overall shift of -0.01%.
While this figure may seem relatively insignificant at first, it’s important to note that approximately 191,000 more people moved out of the state than moved in over 2016. Even though the birth rate exceeded the death rate in New York, the population still shrank due to this outbound migration (3).
What explains this pattern of population growth in some states and shrinkage in others?
Between the two examples of Arizona and New York we can see one of the strongest overall trends in the demographic population data for the US, which is that people are moving out of states in the Northeast and Midwest areas of the country and are moving into states in the West and the South. This can be seen in the data, as 7 of the 10 fastest growing states in the country are in the West (3).
This trend can at least partly be explained by traditional factors in population movements such as employment opportunities and education (more so in the West than in the South), as well as the availability of affordable housing. However, these driving factors are undergoing change as well: now more people opt to move due to lifestyle factors such as weather and the quality of life they can expect in their new homes (1).
The importance of boomers to population trends
One of the biggest factors in this overall population movement is that the baby boomer generation has now reached retirement age. Currently around 15% of the US population is aged 65 or over, although this figure is expected to rise to 20% by 2028. However, these older people are not equally distributed across the country, with 1 in 4 counties having already reached the level of 20% older people (4).
This is because older people tend to move to areas with better access to the services that they need, causing denser populations of older adults in particular areas.
Many members of this boomer cohort are choosing to move away from the costly housing and cold weather of the Northeast and Midwest and towards to sunny climes and cheaper housing of the South and West. Florida has long been a desirable location for retirees, drawn by its tropical climate and abundance of retirement homes and care communities, and recently more people have moved to Florida from New York than from any other state. All of this has caused Florida to overtake New York as the third most populous state in the country,1 which demonstrates the significant influence that retiring boomers have on overall population trends.
Which regions are baby boomers retiring to?
As well as Florida, other places with a high concentration of older people are the Appalachian region and parts of the upper Midwest and Northwest. In addition, there are specific counties with a growing population of older adults, particularly in rural areas (4).
Another factor to consider in terms of aging population is the areas (particularly in the rural Midwest) which are “aging in place”. This refers to regions in which younger people are moving out of the area to search for jobs and housing, leaving an older population behind them and thus raising the average age of the region. This outward migration of younger people can lead to local issues such as decreased tax revenues and decreased availability of health care and other services (4).
Burd Home Health's interest in population trends
Burd Home Health is based in New York, but is committed to providing support services for older adults across the country. Part of this commitment involves tracking these population trends so that we can expand to meet the needs of older adults in other areas too.