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States Where Each Generation of Americans Is Growing, Declining

Newly released Census data show different shifts in millennial, Generation X and baby boomer populations across states.

millennial bicyclist1
Millennials have officially replaced baby boomers as the largest generation in the United States.
Millennials have grown to make up the largest generation of Americans. Meanwhile, the number of baby boomers, which once held the title, are starting to shrink.

A review of new Census data shows differences in how these population shifts are playing out across states. Estimates published Thursday tally each state’s 2016 population by age. We’ve calculated population totals for millennials, Generation X, baby boomers, and the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation, showing how their presence in each state has changed from 2010 through last year.



Most states are adding millennials, with the demographic’s total U.S. population increasing by about 2.6 million since 2010.

The first half of the decade saw a steady flow of millennials move into the District of Columbia, with their numbers increasing a staggering 30 percent since 2010. North Dakota recorded an increase of 18 percent, which was part of broad population gains the state experienced as a result of the energy sector boom. Colorado (+14 percent) and Washington (+9 percent) similarly saw their millennial populations climb significantly.

As a share of the total population, millennials are most prevalent in the District and Utah, the youngest state in the union. Not too far behind are Alaska (29 percent), California (28.7 percent) and Texas (28.7 percent). Gains for these and other states resulted not only from migration across state lines, but also from immigrants establishing residency.

The Census estimates suggest Mississippi is headed in the opposite direction, with a nearly 4 percent loss in millennials since 2010. Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico also saw declines exceeding 2 percent.

Definitions of the millennial generation vary. One often-cited definition by authors Neil Howe and William Strauss considers the generation to span from those born in 1982 through 2004. Others use endpoints in the mid to late 1990s. Here, we define millennials as those born between 1981 and 2000.



Generation X

Generation X makes up about one-fifth of the total population, making it the third-largest generation.

This demographic grew at the fastest rates in North Dakota (+7.7 percent) and Florida (+7.6 percent) between 2010 and 2016. Generally speaking, states that added large numbers of millennials over that period also welcomed the most Gen Xers. Just Idaho and South Carolina saw larger increases of Gen Xers than millennials.

Generation X is most concentrated in Georgia and New Jersey, where its accounts for 21.5 percent of the total population. Their numbers are fewer throughout much of the Great Plains, particularly in North Dakota and South Dakota.

The state Gen Xers left at the greatest net rate was Illinois (-4.2 percent), one of the few states registering a total population decline over the six-year period. Census estimates depict similar, but slightly smaller, losses for the District of Columbia, Mississippi and New Mexico.


Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, while still a massive bloc of the population, are no longer the nation’s largest generation. Their numbers dipped by about 3.2 million over the six-year period ending last July.

Two retirement destinations have seen the demographic expand at the fastest rates: Florida’s baby boomer population climbed 5.3 percent, while Arizona’s grew 3.3 percent. It’s worth noting, however, that the millennial population still grew at much steeper rates in both states.  The oldest baby boomers turned 70 last year, so both deaths and migration are driving population shifts. Delaware, Idaho, Nevada and South Carolina were the only other states where their numbers were still growing.

Boomers still make up more than a quarter of the population in seven states. They’re most prevalent throughout the Northeastern states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Alaska lost nearly 13 percent of its baby boomers, by far the largest decline of any state. Parts of the Mid Atlantic and Midwest also recorded sizable losses over the six-year period, with Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey experiencing the largest percentage losses.


Silent Generation and Greatest Generation

The oldest groups of Americans, born before 1946, account for roughly 9 percent of the U.S. population.

Their numbers have fallen significantly in all states, with declines most apparent throughout the Midwest. Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania all recorded decreases of about 29 percent so far this decade. The largest recent declines occurred in the District of Columbia and one of the oldest states, West Virginia (-31 percent). Both deaths and migration to other states played a role in pushing down states’ totals.

Declines in this segment of older Americans were smallest in Arizona and Florida as migration to those states offset losses.


Data and Methodology

Calculations shown represent changes in population occurring between July 2010 and July 2016. The Census Bureau’s published estimates by single year of age were added for each state. Only aggregate totals are reported for those age 85 and over, so calculations for the Silent Generation and Greatest Generation were grouped together.

Reported definitions for each generation vary. Age ranges utilized for this report are similar to those used by the Pew Research Center. 

Millennials: Age 16 to 35 (born 1981-2000)

Generation X: Age 36 to 51 (born 1965-1980)

Baby Boomers: Age 52 to 70 (born 1946-1964)

Silent Generation and Greatest Generation: Age 71+ (born before 1946)

This table lists calculated population estimates for each generation as of July 2016:

State Post-Millennials Millennials Generation X Baby Boomers Silent + Greatest Generation
Florida 3,662,500 5,105,619 4,079,408 5,078,470 2,616,036
Maine 222,805 313,738 262,270 376,979 154,197
West Virginia 331,135 446,110 367,299 480,192 205,351
Pennsylvania 2,354,113 3,339,374 2,505,303 3,189,540 1,389,791
Hawaii 276,370 350,254 270,946 333,192 150,062
Vermont 103,471 162,443 119,754 171,340 66,987
Montana 202,410 267,686 189,012 269,508 110,153
Delaware 180,612 245,582 183,859 238,412 100,069
Arizona 1,445,233 1,866,587 1,338,565 1,538,804 722,700
Iowa 648,101 838,686 590,283 732,871 323,378
Rhode Island 182,626 293,633 208,611 258,989 108,427
Connecticut 656,676 927,674 736,158 887,681 360,676
New Hampshire 227,393 335,852 271,175 365,010 133,882
Arkansas 624,360 789,814 583,179 686,931 298,713
Missouri 1,226,780 1,618,754 1,180,080 1,448,258 603,190
South Dakota 190,779 227,868 154,471 203,238 85,525
Oregon 768,974 1,096,074 831,615 988,422 405,941
Ohio 2,302,114 3,031,087 2,289,005 2,833,655 1,149,346
New Mexico 434,425 553,219 383,623 492,780 204,830
South Carolina 972,046 1,278,704 978,233 1,208,132 484,836
Wisconsin 1,136,214 1,513,680 1,137,453 1,420,502 567,926
Michigan 1,923,244 2,611,813 1,953,955 2,460,351 974,916
Alabama 966,963 1,279,570 970,647 1,159,468 473,002
Massachusetts 1,209,483 1,908,751 1,394,407 1,635,131 658,852
New Jersey 1,747,476 2,295,402 1,919,958 2,121,244 851,194
New York 3,693,781 5,523,330 4,060,620 4,568,583 1,873,943
Tennessee 1,328,591 1,753,254 1,357,284 1,566,985 624,473
Nebraska 422,363 517,630 357,850 424,262 178,224
Kansas 634,885 784,459 542,603 654,017 270,308
North Carolina 2,033,007 2,605,855 2,107,351 2,356,927 935,319
Kentucky 894,380 1,156,102 900,635 1,058,116 411,208
North Dakota 159,004 225,994 132,117 163,704 69,735
Oklahoma 855,695 1,072,032 746,269 868,492 362,376
Minnesota 1,144,817 1,474,830 1,090,945 1,295,703 511,348
Mississippi 637,390 801,799 583,450 680,345 271,310
Indiana 1,391,357 1,789,194 1,320,878 1,527,602 601,403
Idaho 387,878 447,084 319,326 373,622 151,666
Illinois 2,582,767 3,481,010 2,649,126 2,915,294 1,143,590
Virginia 1,657,552 2,229,599 1,738,152 1,938,005 733,322
Maryland 1,193,857 1,597,824 1,254,696 1,412,473 526,311
Wyoming 124,141 157,450 108,830 140,814 51,026
Washington 1,448,306 1,983,637 1,480,950 1,686,672 633,584
Nevada 601,906 785,632 619,641 665,241 256,209
Louisiana 988,567 1,300,913 908,683 1,064,907 400,971
California 8,059,997 11,216,455 8,214,866 8,348,907 3,251,228
Colorado 1,121,505 1,570,868 1,151,939 1,235,837 426,524
Georgia 2,221,481 2,808,254 2,202,765 2,232,542 784,134
Texas 6,491,642 7,964,427 5,768,115 5,532,798 1,989,227
District of Columbia 110,438 255,817 138,919 124,712 47,406
Utah 823,460 933,266 584,286 513,029 192,041
Alaska 166,990 208,863 141,703 162,604 40,035

SOURCE: Governing calculations of Census population estimates
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