NJ’s Graying Population Moves a Bit Closer to Golden Years, Census Shows

Median age is up slightly to 39.4 years; Hunterdon’s population ranks as state’s oldest

New Jersey, and every one of its counties, got a little older last year, as the baby boom generation continued to age, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median age in the state inched up to 39.4 years last year, from 39.3 in 2012 and 39 in 2010. For women, the median age was 41 years, while for men it was 37.8. New Jersey’s increase was consistent with national trends, although the U.S. as a whole is younger, with a median age of 37.6 years. Seven states, however, saw their median ages decline. Utah was the youngest state, with a median age of 30.2 years, while Maine was the oldest at 43.9.

“We’re seeing the demographic impact of two booms,” Census Bureau Director John Thompson said. “The population in the Great Plains energy boom states is becoming younger and more male as workers move in seeking employment in the oil and gas industry, while the U.S. as a whole continues to age as the youngest of the baby boom generation enters their 50s.”

Every New Jersey county got older between 2010 and 2013, some faster than others. The median age in both Hunterdon and Sussex counties rose by 1.6 years during that time, while in Union County, it squeaked up by only about 72 days. Although Ocean County is home to numerous senior housing developments, Hunterdon residents ranked as the oldest, with a median age of 45.1 years, while Hudson residents were youngest at 34.7 years.

The aging of New Jersey and the nation as a whole is due to the graying of the baby boomers, the nation’s largest demographic group. With the oldest boomers continuing to move into their senior years, the nation’s 65-and-older population surged to 44.7 million in 2013, up 3.6 percent from 2012. The number of people at least 85 years old alone grew by 3 percent to 6 million. By comparison, the population younger than 65 grew by only 0.3 percent, census data shows.

In New Jersey, the number of seniors rose to nearly 1.3 million, an increase of 8.2 percent in just three years. Those age 65 and older made up 14.4 percent of the state’s total population in 2013, compared with 13.5 percent in 2010. The number of those age 85 and older rose by 7 percent to more than 192,000, according to the data.

The annual population estimates released by census officials showed a continuation of the other demographic trends that New Jersey has been facing over the past few decades.

Overall, the state’s population continued creeping higher, rising by 1.2 percent between 2010 and 2013 to 8,899,339. Most of the increase over that time was the result of births exceeding deaths. The state actually experienced negative migration — the difference between the number of people moving into the state and the number moving out — during that time, with those leaving outnumbering those entering by 2,776, the data shows. However, that trend was reversed between 2012 and 2013, when 46,373 immigrants outnumbered the 45,035 people who moved out of the state.

The other trend that continues is the growing diversity of the state’s population. According to the census figures, New Jersey’s Asian population rose the most — by 9.5 percent, to about 802,000; followed by multiracial residents (up 9.1 percent to 125,067) and Hispanics (increasing 8.3 percent to nearly 1.7 million). New Jersey’s black population rose by 1 percent to 1.1 million.

The only racial or ethnic group with a population decline was non-Hispanic whites, who remain the majority in New Jersey but whose numbers dropped by 1.6 percent to about 5.2 million.

Asians were the fastest-growing racial group nationally, as well as in New Jersey. While the non-Hispanic white population across the country did not decline, its 0.1 percent growth rate brought its share of the total population down by 0.4 percentage points to 62.6 percent.