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The 2020 Census, Massachusetts, and the Baby Boomer Tsunami

By Harry S. Margolis

Unlike what happened after other recent censuses, Massachusetts held its own with the rest of the country over the past decade. As a result, we did not lose any congressional seats.

Massachusetts Keeps Up

While our growth rate of 7.4%, from just over 6.5 million residents in 2010 to 7 million in 2020 kept pace with the national growth rate of 7.1%, because of uneven rates of growth, we dropped from the 14th most populous state in 2010 to the 15th today, with Arizona leapfrogging from 16th to 14th. Indiana actually fell back to slots from 15th to 17th as Tennessee moved up from 17th to 16th.

The two most populous states, in order, remain California and Texas. But more people now live in Florida than in New York as the move to the sun belt continues. As a result, New York lost one congressional seat. Pennsylvania moved past Illinois as the state with the fifth most people as Illinois actually lost population—just 18,000 people out of almost 13 million.

Massachusetts is the fastest growing northeast state, followed by New Jersey, which saw 5.7% growth, with New Hampshire (4.6%), Rhode Island (4.3%), and New York (4.2%) rounding out the top five. Yes, even though New York was one of the fastest growing northeastern states, its failure to keep up with the nation at large meant the loss of that one congressional district.

Watch Out for the Baby Boomers

The Census Bureau is still parsing many of its results, but according to its 2019 estimates, 71% of the U.S. population is 55 or under. Those over 55 break down as follows:

Age Both sexes Male Female
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
   55 to 59 years 21,163 6.5 10,046 6.3 11,117 6.7
   60 to 64 years 20,592 6.3 9,819 6.2 10,773 6.5
   65 to 69 years 17,356 5.4 8,198 5.2 9,158 5.5
   70 to 74 years 14,131 4.4 6,691 4.2 7,440 4.5
   75 to 79 years 9,357 2.9 4,233 2.7 5,124 3.1
   80 to 84 years 6,050 1.9 2,519 1.6 3,532 2.1
   85 years and over 5,893 1.8 2,282 1.4 3,611 2.2

As you can see, women on average live longer than men, making up 61% of Americans age 85 and over. The four youngest cohorts in this chart more or less constitute Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, who were 55 to 73 in 2019. Together they (we, including myself) total 73 million as compared to just 21 million surviving members of the generations before them. Demographers and people working with older populations have long warned of the tsunami of people needing assistance as Baby Boomers age. With the oldest Baby Boomers now reaching age 75, the crest of this wave is in view and (to belabor the metaphor) is likely to come crashing down on us in about 10 years when they reach age 85.

Not as Old as Our Neighbors, Now

Maine is the oldest state, with 21.2% of the population 65 or older, followed by Florida (20.9%), West Virginia (20.5%) and Vermont (20.0%). With 1.17 million residents age 65 and older, 17% of the Massachusetts population is in that age cohort.

Just 160,000 or 2.3% of the Massachusetts population is age 85 or older. Of those, 106,000 or 66% are women.

But What Happens in a Decade?

Baby Boomers in Massachusetts number 1.6 million, about 10 times as large as a group as all those currently 85 and older. The oldest Baby Boomer cohort, those age 70 to 74 in 2019, which is currently 300,000 strong, will begin reaching age 85 in just 10 years.

Are we ready for them?

Related Articles:

Oldest Baby Boomers Turning 75: A Time to Plan

Why Postponing Retirement Can Enhance Your Life

AskHarry Podcast Episode 1: Planning Steps Seniors Can Take for their Protection

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