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North Carolina’s median age of residents continues to rise

We’re not getting any younger.

In 2018, the median age for North Carolina residents was 38.9, an increase of 1.5 years since 2010. That makes the state tied with Kentucky for the 22nd oldest state in the country, up five spots from 27th in 2010.

The national median age is 38.2. Maine is the oldest state with a median age of 44.9.

The data, released Thursday, are part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual population estimates for states and counties by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin. Next year, the bureau will begin its decennial count of the nation’s residents, asking for basic information on every household. The data are used to determine the number of seats each state sends to the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute federal funds to state and local governments to be used for a variety of programs and services.

The trend of more N.C. residents - and the nation - becoming older has continued for decades. In 1960 the median age in N.C. was 25.5. By 1990 it had jumped to 33.1 and then to 35.3 in 2000. Only two N.C. counties - Moore and Tyrrell - saw a decline in median age from 2010 to 2018.

North Carolina’s 65 and older population now accounts for 16.3% of the state’s 10.4 million residents, up 3.4 percentage points since 2010.

Brunswick County was not only the fastest growing county in the state from 2017 to 2018, but thanks to a growing number of retirees moving into the popular southeastern coastal county, it ranks as the oldest in the state with a median age of 54.7 and almost one out of three residents age 65 and over.

Onslow County, home to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, has the youngest population at 26.8, with only one out of 10 residents age 65 and over.

Dr. Michael Cline, state demographer, attributes the growing older population to a combination of factors: declining fertility rates, declining teen pregnancy rates and the baby boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1964.

“That first wave of baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011. Over the next several years on average about 50,000 people per year will be added to that 65 and over age group,” Cline says.

Cline estimates that by 2030 one in five North Carolina residents will be 65 and over.

Other highlights:

  • The Asian population in N.C., now about 318,000, grew the fastest of any racial or ethnicity group since 2010 with an increase of 51.7%. They now account for 3.1% of the total population.
  • There are now almost one million Hispanics in the state, comprising 9.6% of the state’s population, up from 8.4% in 2010.
  • Non-Hispanic whites are still the largest racial group in the state with 62.8% of the population, down from 65.4% in 2010.
  • Non-Hispanic African-Americans make up 21.4% of the population, almost the exact same rate as 2010.
  • Twenty-one counties have a minority-majority population, where minorities outnumber non-Hispanic whites, including urban counties Durham, Guilford and Mecklenburg. In 2010, 16 counties were in that category.
  • Minorities accounted for two-thirds of the growth between 2010 and 2018. Hispanic growth slowed from the previous decade but still accounted for 23% of the growth since 2010. Asians made up 13% of the growth, compared to 6% of change in the 2000s.
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David Raynor is database editor at The News & Observer where he acquires, maintains and analyzes data for the newsroom. He has worked on many stories and projects covering topics such as health care, campaign finance, census, crime, construction industry, elections, sports, education and environment. He joined the News & Observer in 1992.
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