A Geography of Aging in the U.S.

Peter Rogerson crunches the numbers on 50 years of demographic shifts.

1 minute read

May 31, 2018, 9:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden


Senior Mobility

Toa55 / Shutterstock

For 50 years, the Baby Boomer cohort has largely defined the demographic shape of the United States. As they grew up, the country's median age increased; as they left home, the population spread out. The millennial generation is even bigger, and the two combined have left a "distinctive geographical fingerprint" on the U.S. that geographer Peter Rogerson helpfully unpacks in CityLab.

Planners might be interested to learn that Americans today relocate much less than they did half a century ago, in part because people become less likely to move as they age, according to Rogerson. That makes a compelling reason for cities to adopt planning principles to facilitate aging in place—particularly in states like Maine, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, which all have a median age over 40.

When they do uproot, migrants young and old tend to move to coastal states. Urbanization in the U.S. is still increasing, with smaller cities seeing the most population growth—but many larger cities are actually shrinking, Rogerson reports, as young adults leave in search of economic opportunity and older adults head for retirement regions.

Head to Citylab for a fuller picture and some interesting interactive maps.

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