The census designates geographical areas in a number of ways, including metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. Metro areas are geographical designations with a core urban area of 50,000 people or more, while a micro area has an urban core of more than 10,000 residents, but fewer than 50,000. These metro and micro areas allow the United States Census Bureau to look at areas that have a population nucleus and surrounding communities that are closely integrated both socially and economically. Utilizing data from the 2010 census and the most recent data release of 2015 data we explored changes in both population and age in these areas.
Population counts are always on people’s minds because of the the social and economic implications. The Charleston, West Virginia metro area saw the largest population decrease between 2010 and 2015. It’s population fell 26.48% from 225,070 to 199,776 residents. The state of West Virginia has been experiencing decline for decades. Researchers believe economic factors, including fewer education and job opportunities in the state have led to the out migration, particularly of young, educated residents. On the other end of the spectrum, the metro area of Lafayette, Louisiana saw a massive increase in population, growing 75.07% between 2010 and 2015. In that time period, Lafayette saw the population grow from 274,265 residents to 480,148. The Louisiana city believes that the increased population is, at least partially, due to the lasting effects of Hurricanes Katrina. Lafayette welcomed many evacuees from New Orleans and other cities along the cost following Katrina and then Hurricane Rita. The uptick in the real estate market suggests some evacuees stayed, increasing business and retail in the area. Recent economic development in the metro area may account for the continued population increase in the metro area.
Age is another popular demographic topic. The age breakdown of an area’s population can have wide effects on socioeconomic factors due to generational effects. The metro area with the lowest median age was Provo-Orem, Utah. This metro boasts a median age of only 24.5 years. Between the census of 2010 and the most recent data from 2015, the Provo-Orem area experienced a change in median age of -0.41%, dropping the median age of residents from 24.6 to 24.5 years. Utah has historically been home to some of America’s youngest residents. Some explanations include the influence of the LDS Church, which promotes the importance of family, leading residents to marry younger and have larger families. The Villages, Florida has the highest median age of any metro area at 65.3 years. It experienced a 4.48% increase in median age since the 2010 census, when 62.5 years was the median age of residents. The Villages serves as a retirement community, so the high median age is not surprising. In fact rules governing the community require at least 80% of households have at least one person over the age of 55. People age 19 and younger are prohibited unless they obtain a special exemption or are living in specially designated “family units”.
The Minot, North Dakota micro area saw the largest percentage decrease in median age between 2010 and 2015. The median age decreased 10.34% from 35.8 years to 32.1. The micro area is growing in population, even approaching a large enough population to give it metropolitan status. As the area sees increased growth, it may be that this increase is driving down the median age. The St. George, Utah metro area saw the largest percentage increase in median age, from 32.3 to 34.6 years, a 7.12% increase. While Utah is typically known for it’s statistically young population, it is seeing its population age as baby boomers live longer and stay in the state. The St. George area is known to have a higher percentage of older residents than other parts of Utah, functioning as a retirement community in the state.
The map below details the median age of each metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area, with darker blue indicating higher median age.
The age breakdown of the metropolitan and micropolitan areas was fairly consistent. The percentage of people 65 and older was slightly lower than other age brackets, making up 13% of the population in the census designated metro and micro areas. As the chart below shows, 10% of the population in these areas are under 10 years old, 10% are between 10-19 years old, 26% are between 20-34 years old, 21% are between 45 and 64 years old.