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As Suburbs Go Gray, Metro Areas Lure Younger Residents

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It’s official: The suburbs are aging – and young families are, in some cases, heading downtown.

The population within metropolitan areas is aging at a more rapid pace in suburbs than in cities, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data from the past three decades by William Frey, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. People age 45 and older now represent 40% of suburban residents, compared to 35% of city residents.

Other findings:

–Due to baby boomers’ “aging in place,” the population age 45 and over grew 18 times as fast as the population under age 45 between 2000 and 2010.

–Although all parts of the country are aging, there are dramatic differences in gains and losses in areas’ younger populations. In 28 states and 36 of the 100 largest metro areas, the population below age 45 fell between 2000 and 2010. But in 29 metro areas, including Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas and Orlando, that age group increased by at least 10%.

–Baby-boom “pre-seniors,” now just turning 65, are growing rapidly all over the country, due to aging in place. College towns — such as Austin, Texas; Madison, Wis.; and Raleigh, N.C. — are among the places where “pre-senior” populations are growing fastest.

–The suburbs don’t necessarily draw the kids anymore. The suburbs of 34 metro areas, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, experienced declines in their populations under 45 years of age in the 2000s. That left high concentrations of “advanced middle-aged” and older residents.

Do these statistics seem reflective of what’s happening where you live? What do you think will happen to all the four-bedroom, “five-four-and-a-door” homes on cul-de-sacs, if boomers eventually want to downsize and families with children stay in the city?

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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.

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