Retiring Boomers are going rural (but not too rural)

There is a lot of buzz amongst urbanists and demographers about millennials’ preference for urban areas.  We’ve found evidence to support this narrative in some areas of Virginia, including indications that they may be staying even after having kids.

But there’s also a lot of talk about baby boomers retiring and moving into cities.  Maybe this is happening in other parts of the U.S., but it’s certainly not the case in Virginia.  On the contrary, they appear to be heading for the hills.  In fact, despite Forbes Magazine naming Virginia its 5th best state to retire in, Virginia does not appear to attract many retirees in general.

Virginia is aging quickly, as can be seen on the map below.  From 2000 to 2010, the median age in the Commonwealth rose from 35.7 to 37.5.  In some localities, it rose by as many as 5 or 6 years in just that 10-year period.  But most of that is due to a gradual decline in birthrates, not older people moving in.  From 2000 to 2010, migration accounted for only a slight (1-2%) increase in the population of age groups around retirement age, and that increase was smaller than the state’s overall growth rate.

Median Age Change

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Virginia is getting older

Like many people, I’ve been inclined to explain Virginia’s decades of explosive population growth in terms of migration and the Federal government’s expansion in Northern Virginia.  While that’s certainly part of the equation, “natural increase” has actually driven most of the growth, just as it has across the country.  Natural increase simply means more people are born than die in a year.  Even in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, natural increase is the largest generator of population growth.  But “natural increase” does not mean that we are having lots and lots of babies.  In fact, it has much more to do with the fact that we had a lot of babies a while back and since then people started living a lot longer.

You hear, on this blog and elsewhere, about the “aging population,” but I wanted to show exactly what that means.  Here’s the one gif you need to see to understand population growth in Virginia:


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Retirement patterns: Anywhere but cities

Virginia is often ranked as one of the top states for retirees, according to lists published by groups like AARP or Bankrate. Temperate climate, good healthcare, and standard of living are all listed among Virginia’s advantages. During the past decade, however, few retirees moved to Virginia, and more 65- to 74-year-olds moved out of the state than in. Additionally, despite both college towns and cities being promoted as attractive retirement spots, in Virginia’s major cities more retirees moved out than in and there was no great influx of retirees moving in to college towns such as Blacksburg or Charlottesville. Instead rural and suburban regions were the only areas in Virginia to experience growth due to in-migration of retirees.



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Growing number of Virginians with disabilities

We can expect the number of Virginians with disabilities to increase in coming years, leading to increased demands for services such as Social Security Disability or home-health services.  There are for two reasons for this:

  1. Increases in life expectancy.  Disability is much more common at older ages; as people live longer, they will be more likely to live long enough to develop a disability.
  2. Aging Baby Boomers.  The large cohort of Baby Boomers began to turn 65 in 2010; disability rates increase substantially after age 65.  Statewide and nationally, the population 65 and older will grow as the Baby Boomers age.

Since 2008, the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, has asked a set of questions to capture six dimensions of disability. The types of disability reported range from sensory disabilities (vision and hearing), difficulty performing self-care tasks such as dressing or bathing, or difficulties performing activities associated with independent living such as shopping or going to the doctor.

The proportion of disabled individuals in Virginia increases dramatically with age, as shown by the graph below.  Fewer than 5 percent of Virginians under the age of 30 report any disabling condition while more than one in three Virginians ages 65 and older report at least one disability.

Disability Rate by Age in Virginia, 2011 ACS

Disability Rate by Age

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Population Aging and Growing Dependency

In addition to producing total population projections for 2020, 2030, and 2040 for Virginia and its localities, we also produced projections of future population by age, sex, and race, and by age, sex, and ethnicity. Today, I want to highlight the age structure of projections for the state of Virginia, with specific attention to population aging.

Population aging is occurring worldwide, as improvements in living conditions and medical care lead people to live longer, healthier lives. Not only will larger numbers of individuals be reaching older ages (65 and older) than ever before, but a rising proportion of the population will be at older ages in the future. These population changes are anticipated to have wide-ranging impacts: families may face increased caretaker demands; new businesses and services may develop to serve this large population with new and changing needs; and, in the United States and other countries, population aging has long-term implications for the economy.

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We like you…but could you please stop robbing us :)

The recent debate and negotiations this week in Congress over student loans has me fuming.  The primary question is whether or not to increase interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans, loans that go to students from families that earn less than $70,000 a year.  Regardless of whether they agree to raise or maintain interest rates on Stafford loans, it could very well be the case that young people will still get burned.  Graduate students may have to start paying interest on their loans while they are still in school and the government will no longer cover the interest on subsidized loans during the six month transition after undergraduate students graduate.  These changes could cost young people an extra $20 billion dollars over the next decade added on to a cumulative student loan debt that has surpassed $1 trillion.  Student loan debt is one of those things that haunts you well after you graduate, and as a person who is still trying to pay off a small part of that $1 trillion, I can imagine how much tougher it will be for these new lower-income students throughout their lifetime.  So, I am a bit angry; not only because of what this means for student loans but how this contributes to a troubling pattern in today’s policy making that only seems to be getting worse.  I must ask:

How long must the old continue to eat the young?

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