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Americans 45 and Older Are New Voting-Age Majority

Certner also cited the fast growth of the 85-plus population, evident in states such as Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania, which he said puts additional financial pressure on baby boomers to support elderly parents as well as children. A recent Associated poll found that 44 percent of boomers had little or no faith they'll have enough money for retirement.

"One of the biggest issues in the last election was the protection of Medicare, and it's setting up to be one of the biggest in the next one," he said.

On the topic of families, the number of married couples with children dropped about 5.7 percent to 23.4 million, or roughly 20 percent of U.S. households. That's down from a share of 23.5 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1960.

The decreases in traditional families were seen in 42 states plus the District of Columbia, while the remaining eight — Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia — saw increases. Those eight states generally have a higher number of either immigrants or Mormon residents.

In contrast, non-family households made up of single people such as seniors living alone, or opposite-sex or same-sex partners without children, jumped 13 percent to roughly 38 million. Married couples with no kids, which include younger couples and older empty-nesters, rose 9 percent to more than 32 million.

"In American politics, there's a nostalgia element when invoking terms such as 'family values.' But that term is out of touch with the way many Americans live, given demographic changes such as gay marriage" and cohabitation, said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

Preliminary census numbers show that unmarried partners made up 6.5 million, or nearly 6 percent of U.S. households. Those figures include roughly 581,300, or a half-percent of households, composed of same-sex unmarried couples. Measured by shares, the District of Columbia ranked highest for same-sex unmarried households at 2 percent.

Official 2010 data on unmarried partner households will be released beginning in June, followed by figures on same-sex spouses in November.

Other findings:

—Married couples with children dropped since 2000 to an all-time low of roughly 1 in 5 households, surpassed by empty-nesters, childless couples, singles and unmarried partners.

—After a decades-long decline, average household size ticked higher to 2.63 from 2.59 in 2000. That's due mostly to the growth of the Hispanic population, which tends to have larger families, as well as some recent "doubling up" of adult children moving back in with parents during the recession.

—Mexicans increased by roughly 50 percent over the last decade to roughly 32 million and now make up close to 66 percent of all Hispanics. They were followed by Puerto Ricans, at more than 4.4 million or 9 percent share; Cubans at 1.7 million or 3.5 percent share; and other Hispanics, at 10.5 million or 22 percent.

—Based on total population, people 45 and older represent 39 percent of U.S. residents, up from 34 percent in 2000. People 65 and older now make up roughly 13 percent and seniors 85 and older about 2 percent. The 65-plus age group will make up nearly 1 in 5 Americans by 2030, after the youngest boomers turn 65.

—Utah had the youngest population with a median age of 29.

—Chinese are the most common Asians in the U.S., at 3.2 million, or roughly 23 percent share. But people from India are the fastest-growing, at 2.6 million or nearly a 20 percent share. Indians now hold the biggest Asian share in about 23 states compared to 12 states for Chinese. They are followed in numbers by Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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