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Connecticut's Non-Hispanic White Population Tied For Third Place As Nation's Oldest

REGINE LABOSSIERE

September 23, 2009

The U.S. Census Bureau released its American Community Survey Tuesday, and with it came some not too surprising numbers for Connecticut. The state ranks third highest in the country for median age (43.2) of its non-white Hispanic population. That puts it in the company of Florida, New Mexico and Arizona states known for their large population of retirees. Connecticut also ranks fifth in the country for monthly housing costs for homeowners with mortgages. And in a survey of earnings, the bureau found that women in Connecticut typically make 75.9 percent of men's earnings.

Florida comes first and then New Mexico. But Connecticut is tied for third place with Arizona as having the highest median age for non-Hispanic whites.

In other words, not only are we old, but we're nearly as old as states known for being popular with retirees.

Data from the Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey released Tuesday show that the median age of white Nutmeggers and Arizonans is 43.2 years old. Florida's median age is 45.9 years old and New Mexico's is 45.6 years old.

The Census Bureau singled out the figures for non-Hispanic whites because they represent a significant jump from census data released in 2003 that showed the median age of the same group to be 40.2 years.

The median age for all groups in the state in 2008 was 39.3 years old, up from 39.1 the year before. The median age of the total population in 2003 was 37.4 years old.

"Connecticut is the third oldest in the country [among non-Hispanic whites]. That's scary. People don't move to Connecticut to retire. They leave. Even as you take that into account, we're still the third oldest," said Orlando Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a manager and demographer at the Connecticut State Data Center, which is part of the Center for Population Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

The state's demographic woes younger people fleeing for jobs in other states, one of the lowest fertility rates and one of the oldest populations have been well documented in recent years. The concern, demographers and those who help shape public policy say, is the aging population's growing dependence on taxpayer-funded government services.

"People don't really understand the magnitude of it," Rodriguez said. "When you see that Connecticut is right up there with Arizona ..."

To be fair, there is a two-year difference between second and third place. And, according to the data, other states are very close behind. California and New Jersey are tied for fourth place with a median age of 43.1 years old for non-Hispanic whites.

Nevertheless, Julia Evans Starr, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Aging, said she hopes the data will serve as "a wake-up call for the general public and policy-makers to roll up their sleeves and do the work that needs to be done."

Starr said one-third of the state's population are so-called baby boomers, defined as people born from 1946 to 1964.

"They're a strong group. Adults are experiencing unprecedented longevity. This is really going to impact every facet of society. We need to have sweeping changes to help Connecticut prepare," she said.

Starr said the state needs to commit to programs that stress preventive health care. Also, there will be a huge need for communities for older adults who remain active and prefer to live at home.

In addition, she said, people need to be urged to be better prepared for their retirements and long-term care.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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