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  The 65 Years and Over Population: 2000

downAdditional Topics on the 65 Years and Over Population
downWhy Did Census 2000 Ask the Question on Age?

   
 

In 2000, 35.0 million people 65 years of age and over were counted in the United States.1

This represents a 12.0-percent increase since 1990, when 31.2 million older people were counted.2 Although the number of people 65 years and over increased between 1990 and 2000, their proportion of the total population dropped from 12.6 percent in 1990 to 12.4 percent in 2000.

This report, part of a series that analyzes population and housing data collected from Census 2000, provides a portrait of the 65 years and over population in the United States and discusses its distribution at the national and subnational levels. The report also highlights comparisons with data from the 1990 census.3

A question on age has been asked since the first census of the population in 1790, and data on the 65 years and over population was first published in 1870. The Census 2000 age data were derived from a two-part question that was asked of all people. The first part asked for the age of the person, and the second part asked for the date of birth (see Figure 1).4

 

The 65 years and over population grew slower than the total population.
Census 2000 was the first time in the history of the census that the 65 years and over population did not grow faster than the total population. Between 1990 and 2000, the total population increased by 13.2 percent, from 248.7 million to 281.4 million people. In contrast, the population 65 years and over increased by only 12.0 percent.

 

Among the older population, those 85 years and over showed the highest percentage increase.
In 2000, there were 18.4 million people ages 65 to 74 years old, representing 53 percent of the older population (see Table 1). The 75-to-84-year-olds numbered 12.4 million people (35 percent of the older population), and those ages 85 and over numbered 4.2 million people (12 percent of the older population). These age groups represented 6.5 percent, 4.4 percent, and 1.5 percent of the total population, respectively.

  Table, population 65 years and over by age, 1990 and 2000 Census
Table 1.
 

Chart of population 65 years and over by age and sex, 1990 and 2000 Census

Figure 2. Population 65 Years and Over by Age and Sex: 1990 and 2000.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 1; 1990 Census of Population
During the 1990s, the most rapid growth of the older population occurred in the oldest age groups. The population 85 years and over increased by 38 percent, from 3.1 million to 4.2 million. In contrast, the population 75 to 84 years old increased by 23 percent, and the population 65 to 74 years old increased by less than 2 percent, from 18.1 million to 18.4 million. Within the 65-to-74 age group, the number of people 65 to 69 years old declined by 6 percent, compared with an increase of 11 percent in the number of people 70 to 74 years old. The changes in the 65-to-74 age group reflect the relatively low number of births in the late 1920s and early 1930s, which in turn led to a relatively small number of people reaching age 65 during the decade of 1990 to 2000. This trend is expected to reverse as baby boomers (born from 1946 through 1964) reach age 65, starting in 2011.

 

Women outnumbered men in the 65 years and over population.
In 2000, there were 14.4 million men and 20.6 million women aged 65 and over, yielding a male-female ratio (the number who were male times 100 divided by the number who were female) of 70 (see Figure 2 and Table 2).5 The male-female ratio drops steadily with age group. In the 65-to-74 age group, the male-female ratio was 82; in the 75-to-84 age group, the male-female ratio was 65, and in the group 85 years and over, the ratio was 41. The male-female ratio for each age group in the older population has risen since 1990. In 1990, the ratios were 78, 60, and 39, respectively.

  Table, number of men per 100 women by age, for the 65 years and over population, 1990 and 2000 Census
Table 2.
 

The West and South regions had the most growth in the total population and in the older population.
The regional pattern of growth of the older population matched the regional growth of the total population. Between 1990 and 2000, the West and South regions grew the fastest (click here to view Table 3).6 The West experienced the highest percent increase of the older population, at 20 percent, and the South's older population grew by 16 percent. In contrast, the older population grew at a much lower rate in the Midwest (7 percent) and Northeast (5 percent).

Every state's older population grew between 1990 and 2000, ranging from a 1-percent increase in Rhode Island to a 72-percent increase in Nevada. After Nevada, the next highest increases in the older population were found in Alaska (60 percent), Arizona (39 percent), and New Mexico (30 percent). Only the District of Columbia showed a decline in the 65-years-and-over population.7 Between 1990 and 2000, the older population in the District of Columbia decreased by 10 percent, or 8,000 people.

 

People 65 years and over represented a smaller proportion of the total population in 2000 than in 1990.
Unlike previous decades, during the 1990s, the proportion of the population composed of people 65 years and over declined nationally, in two regions of the country, and in over half of the states. In the Midwest, the proportion 65 years and over declined from 13.0 percent of its total population in 1990 to 12.8 percent in 2000, and the proportion in the South declined from 12.6 percent to 12.4 percent. This proportion remained at 13.8 percent in the Northeast, but in the West, the proportion of people 65 years and over increased slightly from 10.9 percent in 1990 to 11.0 percent in 2000.

In over half of the states (29, including the District of Columbia), the proportion 65 years and over of the total population declined. Nineteen of these states are in the Midwest and South. The states with the largest declines in the proportion 65 years and over were Oregon, Arkansas, and Idaho, which each declined about 1 percentage point between 1990 and 2000 to proportions of 12.8 percent, 14.0 percent, and 11.3 percent, respectively. Although Florida continued to have the highest proportion 65 years and over (17.6 percent), Florida experienced a similar decline in this proportion since 1990.

A total of 29 states had a proportion of population 65 years and over that equaled or exceeded the national value of 12.4 percent. Florida's high proportion of population 65 years and over was followed by Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which had proportions of 15.6 percent and 15.3 percent of their respective total populations. Alaska had the lowest proportion 65 years and over (5.7 percent). Four other states had proportions less than 10 percent - Texas (9.9 percent), Colorado (9.7 percent), Georgia (9.6 percent), and Utah (8.5 percent).

California, the most populous state, was also the state with the largest number of people 65 years and over (3.6 million people). Following California were Florida and New York, with 2.8 million and 2.4 million older people, respectively. Alaska had the fewest number of people 65 years and over, with 36,000 people.

  The proportion 65 years and over in counties followed regional trends.
Figure 3 shows the proportion 65 years and over of each of the country's 3,141 counties and equivalent areas. The broad patterns evident on the map include a high proportion of people 65 years and over in counties extending through the Great Plains and south into central Texas. Many of these counties had a proportion of people 65 years and over that equaled or exceeded the proportion of the older population in the state of Florida (17.6 percent). The presence of this band in the Midwest suggests that the trends of out migration of the young and aging-in-place have continued in this region. A similar band of counties with high proportions of older people is found in the Northeast region, stretching along Appalachia. By contrast, much of the West region consists of counties with lower proportions 65 years and over than the U.S. proportion of 12.4 percent, in part a result of higher net immigration and fertility.
  Map of the conterminous United States showing percent of population 65 years and over, by county, 2000 Census
Figure 3. United States map showing percent of total population 65 years and over, by county. National Atlas of the United States®
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000
 

The proportion 65 years and over of each county's population ranged from a low of 2 percent in Chattahoochee County, Georgia, which has a large military presence, to a high of 35 percent in Charlotte County, Florida. The older population represented 20 percent or more of the total population in 381 counties of the United States, and 30 percent or more of the total population in 10 counties, half of which were in Florida.

Of all 3,141 counties, 2,263 counties (or 72 percent) had a proportion of people 65 years and over that exceeded the national value of 12.4 percent (see Table 4). The Midwest had the highest percent of counties that exceeded this value (82 percent), followed by the Northeast (78 percent), the South (69 percent), and the West (55 percent).

  Table, counties exceeding the U.S. proportion 65 years and over by region, 2000 Census
Table 4.
 

A majority of the counties in most states (43) had a proportion of people 65 years and over that exceeded the national value of 12.4 percent. In seven states, more than 90 percent of the counties had proportions 65 years and over that were greater than 12.4 percent. In Rhode Island, all 5 counties had proportions that exceeded 12.4 percent, while in Maine, 15 of 16 counties had proportions exceeding 12.4 percent. The other states were Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota. In contrast, in only seven states did the majority of counties have proportions 65 years and over that were less than 12.4 percent. These states were Alaska (in which there were no counties that exceeded the national percentage), Delaware, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Table 5 lists the ten places with populations over 100,000 that had the highest proportion of their total population 65 years and over. Six of these places are located in Florida, while two are in Michigan, one is in Hawaii, and one is in Arizona. Clearwater, Florida, had the highest proportion 65 years and over, at 21 percent, followed by Cape Coral, Florida (20 percent) and Honolulu, Hawaii (18 percent).

  Table, ten places of 100,000 or more population with the highest proportion of their population 65 years and over, 2000 Census
Table 5.
 

Eight of the ten places with the lowest proportion 65 years and over are located in the West; the remaining two places are located in the South (see Table 6). Gilbert, Arizona, had the lowest proportion 65 years and over (3.8 percent), followed by Fontana, California (4.7 percent) and Plano, Texas (4.9 percent).

  Table 7 lists the proportion 65 years and over of the ten largest cities. Of these cities, only Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 14.1 percent, had a proportion that exceeded the national level of 12.4 percent.
  Table, ten places of 100,000 or more population with the lowest proportion of their population 65 years and over, 2000 Census
Table 6.
  Table, percent 65 years and over of the ten largest cities, 2000 Census
Table 7.
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  Additional Topics on the 65 Years and Over Population
 

What proportion of the older population lived in nursing homes in 2000?
The percent of people 65 years and over living in nursing homes declined from 5.1 percent in 1990 to 4.5 percent in 2000 (see Table 8). This percent decline occurred for people 65 to 74 years, 75 to 84 years, and especially in the population 85 years and over, where only 18.2 percent lived in nursing homes in 2000, compared with 24.5 percent in 1990. Ninety-one percent of the nursing home population was 65 years and over in 2000, compared with 90 percent in 1990.

  Table, population 65 years and over in nursing homes by age, 1990 and 2000 Census
Table 8.
 

How many centenarians lived in the United States in 2000?
In 2000, there were 50,454 centenarians (people age 100 or over), representing only 1 out of every 5,578 people. In 1990, centenarians numbered 37,306 people (1 out of every 6,667 people). The greatest number of centenarians (5,341) lived in California in 2000, followed by 3,997 centenarians in New York. South Dakota, with 247 centenarians (1 out of every 3,056 people), and Iowa, with 941 centenarians (1 out of every 3,110 people), had the highest proportion of their population 100 years and over.

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  Why Did Census 2000 Ask the Question on Age?
 

People who answered the census help their communities obtain federal funds as well as valuable information for planning hospitals, roads, and housing assistance. Many government agencies use data on the older population to implement and evaluate programs and policies. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs must plan for nursing homes, hospitals, and veterans' benefits; the Department of Health and Human Services monitors compliance with the Older Americans Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses data on age in order to enforce the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The data are also used to forecast the use of social security and medicare benefits.

Private organizations and communities also value data on age for the purposes of planning and assessment. Knowledge about the characteristics of the older population helps businesses select an appropriate mix of merchandise and plan advertising campaigns. Communities also use this information in order to design needed health services and living facilities for the older population.

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  Endnotes
1 The text of this report discusses data for the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but not the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Island Areas.
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2 For this brief, the older population is defined as people 65 years and over.
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3 1990 populations shown in this report were originally published in 1990 census reports and do not include subsequent revisions resulting from boundary or other changes.
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4 For more Census 2000 age information, see U.S. Census Bureau, 2001, Age: 2000, by Julie Meyer, Census 2000 Brief, C2KBR/01-12, Washington, DC.
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5 For more Census 2000 information about the male and female populations, see U.S. Census Bureau, 2001, Gender: 2000, by Denise I. Smith and Reneé E. Spraggins, Census 2000 Brief, C2KBR/01-9, Washington, DC.
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6 The West includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The South includes Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Midwest includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The Northeast region includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
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7 Washington, DC, is treated as a state equivalent for statistical purposes.
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Adapted from U.S. Census Bureau, The 65 Years and Over Population: 2000, by Lisa Hetzel and Annetta Smith in Census 2000 Brief Series.

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