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Census Data Shows Big Shifts in U.S. Population Since 2010

Decade saw rise in diversity, growth of urban areas, decline in number of children

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En español | The fastest-growing metro area by population in the United States over the past decade was The Villages, Florida, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Home to a large retirement community outside Orlando, The Villages increased its number of residents by 39 percent — from roughly 93,000 people to 130,000 — between 2010 and 2020.

The soaring growth in The Villages suggests just how the combination of the aging boomers and lower birth rates is reshaping America’s population. According to the 2020 census, of the 331.4 million people living in the United States, more than 258.3 million were age 18 or older.

That’s a 10 percent increase over the 234.6 million people who were 18 and older in the 2010 count. By comparison, the nation’s overall population grew by 7.4 percent during that same period. The under-18 population shrank by 1.4 percent between 2010 and 2020.

“More than three-quarters — 77.9 percent — of the U.S. population were age 18 and over,” said Andrew Roberts, chief of the Sex and Age Statistics Branch in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “The adult population grew faster than the nation as a whole. By comparison, the population under age 18 was 73.1 million in 2020, a decline of 1.4 percent from the 2010 Census.”

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So far, the only age-related data released from the 2020 count just splits the population into two groups: under 18 and 18 or older. The agency said it will publish more detailed age data next year.

America’s population grows more diverse, less rural

The U.S. Constitution requires the government to do a complete count of residents in the nation and where they live once every decade. The resulting numbers are used to determine how many members each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. The data also determines how more than $675 billion in federal funds are spent each year, on everything from schools and roads to Medicare Part B benefits.

The data released on Aug. 12 show the nation is quickly making long-predicted shifts in racial and ethnic diversity, and in rural and urban populations. Among the key findings were:

  • While the white population continues to be the nation’s largest racial group, the number of people who reported white as their only race (as opposed white as part of being biracial or multiracial) decreased by 8.6 percent since 2010.
  • The number of people who identified as multiracial increased by 276 percent, up from 9 million people in 2010 to 33.8 million people in 2020. In fact, the population growth in each racial category resulted mostly from people who identified as multiracial.
  • The nation’s Hispanic/Latino population grew by 23 percent to 62.1 million people in 2020. For non-Latinos, the population grew by only 4.3 percent since 2010.
  • More people — 86 percent of the population — are living in metro areas. The population of metro areas grew by 9 percent from 2010 to 2020. “Many counties within metro areas saw growth, especially those in the South and West,” said Marc Perry, a senior demographer at the Census Bureau.

The fastest-growing large metro area over the past decade was Phoenix, another area popular with retirees. It grew by 11.2 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers, and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to The Villages as a county.

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