Governing magazine has joined the ranks of publications turning a spotlight on the aging of America.
Especially worth reading is its just-published story on the politics of greying baby boomers. What could be more timely in this election season?
Some highlights of this nuanced, well-reported piece by Rob Gurwitt:
“More than half the nation’s voting-age population is now over 45 – the first time that’s ever happened. As the immense bulge of the baby boom ages, politics in every state, county, city and town will reflect its influence. Yet what’s most interesting about this is that no one really knows how.”
…”‘Really, the senior vote is something of a myth,’ says Frederick Lynch, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and author of One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, And America’s Future. ‘It breaks apart by education, class, ethnicity and family structure. And among pre-seniors, you’ve got elite boomers who got good degrees, bought into globalization and were able to adjust to a changing economy, versus the white working class, which is mostly boomers who have been completely dislocated by cheap immigrant labor and their jobs sent overseas. In numbers, the senior and pre-senior bloc is a sleeping giant, but the question is will it awaken and mobilize?'”
…”There is no shortage of potential flash points that could see state and local voters polarize along age-related lines. Taxation, schools, long-term care, Medicaid, urban design, transportation – all carry the potential for conflict. Even ethnicity could be a sensitive topic. Pew’s research suggests that boomers are generally less tolerant of the increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic character of the U.S. than the cohorts that follow them – though they are more accepting than their elders.”
What a rich vein of reporting lies here for reporters willing to go out and ask baby boomers about their views on these and other topics.
Other stories in the new Governing series look at how cities might change to accommodate aging baby boomers , how public transportation is changing to help people 65 and older, and a new trend that’s been receiving some attention recently – playgrounds for seniors.
Also available from the magazine is a helpful new resource – a map showing which counties have the highest concentrations of baby boomers, defined here as adults between the age of 45 and 64. (The term “boomers” usually refers to people born between 1946 and 1964, but the Census Bureau doesn’t categorize information that way.)
Data for every county across the country is represented, and an interactive version is available here.
Hover over the county you’re interested in and a box will come up with information from the 2010 census – the population of people under 18, 18 to 24 years old, 25 to 44, 45 to 64, and 65 and older. (Yes, it would have been helpful to have a search box for counties, but that doesn’t seem to be available.)
Also represented are bar graphs showing the percent of the county’s population in each age group in 2000 and 2010 – an easy way to visualize demographic changes – and each county’s median age in 2010.
The information is useful because it gives a sense of which areas face the greatest aging challenges over the next few decades – if the boomers who live there don’t move to other areas as they leave work and retire. This kind of migration is happening less often with the economic downturn, but future trends are hard to predict.
Which counties have the highest concentration of boomers? For areas with populations over 100,000, Hunterdon County, N.J.is in first place, with boomers representing 34.6 percent of its total population, followed by El Dorado County, Calif. (33.4 percent); Litchfield County, Conn. (33.1 percent); Fayette County, Ga. (33 percent); Rockingham County, N.H. (32.7 percent), Sussex County, N.J. (32.6 percent); Marin County, Calif. (32.5 percent); Barnstable County, Mass. (32.4 percent); Santa Fe County, N.M. (32.3 percent), and York County, Maine (31.7 percent).