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21st Century Demographics

The 21st Century Age Demographics project was designed to provide information to state leaders across the country that would help them examine the connection between aging and work, and how shifts in the labor force demographics will affect their states.

To date, most of the research on the aging workforce has examined national trends, but there is also a significant need to explore changes at the state level. Why? Because states play crucial roles, as large employers, as leaders for economic development, and as providers of services to older adults.

The 21st Century Age Demographics project producted a report which examines the aging demographics, and provides options for states to enhance their readiness for the aging workforce.

The study was funded by the Massachusetts Chapter of AARP.

key research questions

  • Why should state leaders pay attention to changes in the age demographics of the population?
  • What are the implications of the aging of the workforce?
  • How are age demographics of the workforce connected to the economic conditions in the state?
  • What can state leaders do to enhance their states’ readiness for the aging of the workforce?

selected findings

  • The six states with the highest percentage of people age 50 and older in 2006 are: Maine (43.7%), West Virginia (43.3%), Vermont (42.7%), Montana (42.2%), Florida (42.0%), and Pennsylvania (41.9%).
  • In 2000, there were no states where 41% or more of the population was age 50 or older. By 2006, the number of states where 41% or more of the population was 50 years or older had increased to six.
  • Anticipated Changes in the Age Distribution of the Population: Maine, Montana, and Wyoming are among the states that experienced the most significant change in the percent of the population age 50 years and older between 2000 and 2006. These three states (along with Florida, West Virginia and Vermont) are also expected to experience the greatest increase in the percentage of their populations age 50 and older by the year 2010.
  • Industry Sectors: There can be significant variation in the age composition of workforces by industry sector. For example, workers age 50 and older comprise only 10.8% of the workforce in the food services and drinking industry (nationally) but 41.2% of the agriculture industry (nationally). Industry sectors with workforces where employees age 50 and older comprise 35% or more of that industry sector include: Membership associations (43.7%); Agriculture (41.2%); Real estate (38.7%); Textile, apparel and leather manufacturing (37.2%); Forestry, logging, fishing, hunting and trapping (35.7%); Utilities (35.5%); Equipment and appliance manufacturing (35.3%); Public administration (35.2%); and Machinery manufacturing (35.0%).
  • Occupational Groups: The age distribution within occupational groups provides additional insights into pockets of workforce vulnerabilities that may result from the aging of the workforce. Occupations with more than 30% of their workforces age 50 and older (national statistics) include: Community and social service occupations (37.2%); Management (37.0%); Legal occupations (34.2%); Education, training and library occupations (33.6%); Business and financial operations occupations (32.6%); Healthcare practitioner and technical occupations (32.0%); Building/grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations (30.6%); and Architecture and engineering (30.6%).



For questions of information regarding 21st Century Age Demographics project, or to schedule a conversation with any of the Center’s team, please contact:

617-552-9195 |


21st century age demographics team

Tay K. McNamara, PhD
Co-Director of Research, Secondary Data Studies
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College 
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College
Graduate School of Social Work & Carroll School of Management, Boston College
Sandee Tisdale, MSW, PhD
Michelle Wong, JD, MSW