Posted on June 27, 2023

(White) America Is Getting Older

Philip Bump, Washington Post, June 22, 2023

A news release from the Census Bureau published on Thursday morning summarized three-quarters of a century of American history succinctly. It was titled, “America Is Getting Older.”

This is the Census Bureau, so the assertion was backed up with data. The median age in the U.S. rose to 38.9 years in 2022, up 0.2 years from 2021. Over the past year, 46 states saw increases in their median ages. Four states (and D.C.) saw no change.

This isn’t surprising but is, instead, a continuation of a long-standing trend. But there is an important detail that’s easy to overlook here: The increase in age is largely a function of White Americans getting older — a distinction that itself helps explain an awful lot about American culture and politics in the moment.

In January, my book “The Aftermath” was published. It looks at precisely this issue, how the aging of the population overlaps with the tensions the country is experiencing. {snip} America is getting older because the massive baby boom is getting older, and White America is at the center of that aging process because the baby boom was so heavily White.


At the same time, the boom began in a period when immigration was constrained. It wasn’t until after the boom ended that immigration laws were liberalized, leading to an increase in residents from Asia, Mexico and Central America. In 1970, about 84 percent of the country was non-Hispanic White, compared to 59 percent in 2022. (In 1970, the median age was just over 28.)


A few years ago, the Census Bureau released data showing the age of Americans by race. At that point, the most common age for a White American was 58. The most common age for a non-White American — Black, Hispanic, Asian, mixed-race, etc. — was 27. For Hispanics, the most common age was 11.


This data suggests that most White residents of the U.S. are older than the country’s median age, while most Asian, Black and Hispanic residents are younger than it. Whites make up 52 percent of the population under the median age — and two-thirds of the population over it.