Median age in US rises to 38: How it may impact health care, entitlements

Newly released data shows that half of America's population is now over the age of 38.2 years - a number that could prove costly for the U.S.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the country’s median age increased to 38.2 years, up from 37.25 years in 2010.

“The nation is aging — more than 4 out of every 5 counties were older in 2018 than in 2010. This aging is driven in large part by baby boomers crossing over the 65-year-old mark,” Luke Rogers, the chief of the population estimates branch at the Census Bureau, said in a statement.

“Along with this general aging trend, we also see variation among race and ethnicity groups both in growth patterns and aging,” Rogers noted.

With the nation's population getting older, the U.S. could see higher demands on health care, assisted living communities and in-home caregivers. The Social Security Administration has previously noted that the system will "face financial challenges in the near future." The population of people aged 65 and older is expected to increase to 23 percent by 2080.

As a result, social programs that rely on workers paying into them through income taxes, to support aging Americans, could experience an even bigger financial strain.

“All past projections of the proportion of the U.S. population that will be elderly, and eligible for Medicare and Social Security, have assumed that the previous higher birth rates remained constant,” John Rowe, Julius B. Richmond Professor of health policy and aging health policy and management, told FOX Business. “As rates have fallen, and fewer young people ultimately enter the labor force and pay into the Social Security and Medicare Trust funds, the solvency of these funds is threatened.”

The aging in the new data differed amongst race. The median age increased for the white population by 1 year. The black or African American median age grew by 1.4 years while the native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders grew by 2.6 years. The American Indian and Alaska native age increased by 2.2 years.

Birth rates in the U.S. also declined in 2018. The nation’s birth rates reached record lows for women, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years, according to government data. It was the fourth year the number of births has fallen.

The only state in the U.S. where the median age decreased was North Dakota. In 2018, the median age in the state was 35.2 years, down from 37 in 2010. Meanwhile, Maine had the largest increase for its median age. In 2018, the median age in the state was 44.9 years, up from 42.7 in 2010. Utah had the lowest median age last year with 31 years.

The data also showed the number of people age 65 and older increased by 30.2 percent in 2018 since 2010.


As the nation grows older it's also becoming more diverse. In 2018, out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 20 had a white population of 5 million or more. Meanwhile, 18 states had a black or African American population of 1 million or more. California was the “only state to have an Asian population larger than 5 million at 6,890,703 in 2018.” The Hispanic population was between 100,000 and 499,999 in 20 states.

Fox Business' Brittany De Lea and The Associated Press contributed to this report.