Sun, Dec. 15

Census shows graying of Arizona

PHOENIX -- Arizona is getting older.

New figures today from the U.S. Census Bureau show the state's median age increased by more than one year in the last decade. It now stands at 35.9.

The report also shows that 17 percent of all Arizonans are at least 62 years old. In 2000, only 15.3 percent of Arizonans had reached that level.

And 3.5 percent are 80 and older, up four-tenths of a point from the prior census.

By contrast, the share of the state's population that is younger than 18 slid from 26.6 percent in 2000 to 25.5 percent when the decennial count was made last year.

But University of Arizona economist Marshall Vest said that hardly makes Arizona a state full of old people. He said only five other states have a larger portion of their population under 18.

One big reason for that is related to the number of babies born in the state. And that, Vest said, is related to the relatively high number of Hispanics in Arizona, a population with a higher birth rate than the rest of the population.

That is borne out by figures showing that 43.2 percent of the under-18 population in Arizona being Hispanic, Vest said. Only three other states have a higher percentage in this group: New Mexico, California and Texas.

For the same reason, Vest said Hispanic population amounted to almost half of Arizona's growth in the last decade.

At the other end of the spectrum, Arizona's seniors are not spread evenly throughout the state.

Retirement communities in the two big counties aside, the oldest Arizonans, on average, are in La Paz County.

More than 38 percent of county residents are at least 62. And the median age is just shy of 54.

Yavapai and Mohave counties, with median ages in the 45-plus range, come in second and third.

At the other extreme, fewer than 12 percent of Coconino County residents have reached age 65, with a median age of just 31.

The statistics also show that Arizona is becoming a slightly more feminine state, with the spread between women and men increasing from 0.2 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent.

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