State’s elderly population grows

The median age of Wyoming residents rose by .3 years between 2020 and 2021 to bring the number to 38.9. Lincoln county’s median age of 41.6 is a little older than the statewide number. (COURTESY IMAGE)

CHEYENNE — The elderly population (age 65 and over) in the state grew 3.6% between July 2020 and July 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. In comparison, Wyoming’s total population only grew 0.3% during the same period. The median age (half of the population is younger, and the other half older) rose 0.3 to 38.9 years, while it increased from 38.5 to 38.8 from 2020 to 2021 for the U.S. 

The figure indicates that the aging of both the U.S. and Wyoming’s population has been speedy. “Though the impact from Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) aging was the main reason, outmigration of young people and decline in fertility rate also played roles,” said Dr. Wenlin Liu, Chief Economist with the State of Wyoming, Economic Analysis Division. “Ever since the first Baby Boomers turned 65 years old in 2011, there has been a rapid increase in the size of the older population.”

Even with the fast aging, Wyoming’s median age still ranked in the middle compared to other states in 2021.     

Wyoming has one of the highest proportions of the Baby Boom (age 57-75 in 2021) population, and one of the lowest proportion of Generation X (age 41 to 56 in 2021) in the country.  For example, the number of residents age 45-54 was about 13,000 (or 16.8%) less than age 60-69 group.  “Wyoming does not have sufficient resident workers to replace retiring Boomers in normal economic conditions,” Liu said. “Wyoming’s demographic transition and labor market environment provides excellent opportunity and encouragement for unemployed residents who are looking for jobs within the state as many Baby Boomers are exiting the labor force.”

Wyoming’s population age 65 and older increased from 70,090 in 2010 to 103,877 in 2021, or 48.2%, higher than the U.S. growth rate of 38.7% during the same period. The share of the state’s elderly population (65 and over) was 17.9% in 2021, higher than the U.S. level of 16.8%.

The elderly population in Wyoming is projected to reach 135,000, or well over one-fifth of the state’s total residents by 2030 when all Baby Boomers will be in this age group. 

Since 2020, the population under 18 years decreased 1.0% where pre-school children (under 5 years) declined 3.3%.  The age 18-64 group dropped slightly, -0.2% during the year.  Wyoming’s total minority population reached 96,483 in July 2021.  Minority is defined as any group other than single-race, Non-Hispanic White.

The growth of minorities was 1,179 persons, or 1.2%, compared with 0.3% increase for the state’s total population. In fact, it’s the addition of the minority population that contributes to all the state’s population growth since 2010. Hispanic was the largest minority group with 61,087 in July 2021, an annual increase of 1.5%.

The Black or African-American population remained the same as in July 2020, at 6,016. Other minority races, such as American Indian and Asian declined slightly, while Two-or-More Races recorded 3.1% growth. The majority, Non-Hispanic White, grew only 0.1%.  With 16.7% of the state’s total population, the proportion of minorities in Wyoming was still ranked the 8th lowest in the nation, while 40.7% of U.S. residents are minorities. “Both the nation and Wyoming’s population continue to grow in racial and ethnic diversity,” said Dr. Liu. 

The U.S. Census Bureau also released 2021 county population estimates by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin.  Here are some highlights: 

The Black or African-American population in Hot Springs County in 2021 was 31.0% higher than a year ago.  Big Horn, Platte, and Washakie counties also experienced growth rates of over 7.0%, each, during the year.      

The Hispanic population increased the fastest in Crook County, at 10.4% between 2020 and 2021, followed by Weston and Sheridan counties at 9.9 and 8.7%, respectively.

Fremont County had the highest percentage minority population in 2021 at 30.9%, dominated by American Indian population, followed by Carbon (23.9%), Laramie (22.2%), and Sweetwater (20.9%) counties where most of the minority population was Hispanic.

The largest county, Laramie, also had the largest minority population in 2021, including 15,638 Hispanic, 2,168 African-American, 1,215 Asian, and 2,600 Two or More Races.  They comprise 25.6%, 36.0%, 21.0%, and 23.5% of the state’s total Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Two or More Races population, respectively.   

Counties with the smallest proportion of minority population in 2021 were Crook (6.2%), followed by Lincoln (8.3%).

The State’s oldest county was Hot Springs, with median age of 48.7, and 28.1% of its population was 65 and over in 2021.  Other counties with a higher proportion of elderly population (65 and over) were Johnson (26.6%), Platte (26.5%), and Park (24.9%).  These counties tend to have the smallest proportion of children population and their median ages were all higher than 45.0 years.

The youngest county was Albany, with median age of 28.9 in 2021, followed by Campbell (36.0), Sweetwater (37.1), and Uinta (37.5).  The median age in the state’s two largest counties, Laramie and Natrona, was 37.9 and 38.1 years each.

Crook and Campbell counties had the highest%age of preschool (under 5 years) population (6.9% and 6.6% each) in 2021, followed by Fremont (6.2%), and Uinta (6.1%).  The proportion was 5.6% Statewide in 2021.     

Campbell County had the lowest%age of population age 65 or older, at 12.2%, followed by Albany (13.0%) and Sweetwater (14.1%) counties.

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