Idaho’s Over-55 Population on the Rise

Idaho’s population remains one of the youngest states in the nation, but continues to age faster than most others, new U.S. Census Bureau estimates show. Even the nation’s youngest county, Madison in eastern Idaho, aged slightly faster than eight other Idaho counties.

The median age statewide was 35.5 years in 2013, more than two years younger than the national median age. Just four states – North Dakota, Texas, Alaska and Utah – and the District of Columbia were younger.

However, since 2010, Idaho’s median age has increased nearly a full year – from 34.6 years. Only Maine, New Hampshire and Utah saw larger increases.

Nationally the median age increased by less than a half year from 37.2 to 37.6 years.

Idaho’s median age has been creeping up over the past four years due to an influx of older people. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of residents age 55 and older increased by more than 41,000. The overall population rose just 41,400. An increase of 10,000 people between ages 15 and 44 was essentially offset by declines in the populations under 15 and between 45 to 54.

During those four years, the proportion of Idahoans age 55 and older rose from 24.1 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2013. Only six other states – all in New England and the Midwest – saw greater percentage point increases. That moved Idaho’s ranking for the percentage of 55 and older residents from 43rd to 40th among the states and District of Columbia. Only five other states moved up more spots in the rankings between 2010 and 2013.

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At the same time, the proportion of the state’s population under age  20 has been declining – not just in Idaho but in every state but North Dakota. Just over 29 percent of Idaho’s population was under age 20 in 2013 – the third highest proportion in the nation and a full percentage point below the share of under-20s in 2010. Ten states recorded larger percentage point declines.

To a great extent, the shift in the age composition of Idaho’s population reflects aging Baby Boomers and a marked decline in the birth rate since the onset of the recession. The birth rate, which had been steadily rising during the expansion of the early and mid-2000s plunged from 16.5 births per 1,000 population to 14.1 in 2011. It essentially leveled out, holding at 14.4 in 2012.

Growth of Idaho’s older population has been accelerated by older people moving to the state. All but 300 of Idaho’s more than 41,000 population growth since 2010 was among people age 55 and older. In 2012, 10,000 more people moved to Idaho than moved out, based on driver’s license data from the Idaho Transportation Department. Over 58 percent were 50 years or older. That percentage dropped back to 42.5 percent in 2013, but it was still up from 40 percent in 2010.

Another indicator is unemployment insurance claims of people who lost their jobs in another state but moved and are collecting benefits in Idaho. In December, the Idaho Department of Labor was handling 1,800 of those interstate claims, and 72 percent were for people 55 and older while just a half of a percent – 10 claims – were for people under age 35.

At the same time, the department handled just over 600 claims of Idaho workers who moved to other states to collect benefits. Only 24 percent were 55 or older while 39 percent were under age 35.

With 2013 came a fifth Idaho county where the median age was over age 50. Custer County in central Idaho joined Adams, Lemhi, Clearwater and Boise counties where more than half the residents are over age 50.

Adams County, however, was among 15 counties that saw the percentage of populations 55 and older decline between 2010 and 2013. In the case of Adams, its total population also declined.

Rural Madison County, teeming with thousands of Brigham Young University-Idaho students, had the lowest median age of any county in the nation in 2013 at 23.1 years, but it was still a half year higher than in 2010, and the proportion of the county population 55 and older increased from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 12.5 percent in 2013.

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