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State Contexts

This project focuses on the facts of the aging of the population, juxtaposed with the realities that state leaders are facing. The State Contexts Project includes in-depth analyses of demographic trends in each of the 50 states, providing individualized information regarding aging in each state’s population and workforce. The insights from the State Context papers bring the facts of each state’s demographics to life, offering glimpses of the opportunities that can be seized as state leaders move from awareness of the situation into action steps.

key research questions

  • How significant are the shifts in the age demographics in states?
  • What might these changes mean to an individual state’s workforce?

selected findings

  • The aging of the population is a national trend. Florida is the sate with the highest percent of its population age 55 and older, followed by West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Montana.
  • In 2006, 10 states had populations with at least 25% of residents aged 55 or older. According to the US Census Bureau, that number will increase to 31 states by 2010. Wyoming is expected to have the largest percentage point increase of people aged 55 and older, followed by New Mexico, Montana, Florida, and Arizona.
  • The labor force participation rate in Wyoming for people aged 55 and older is 46.8%. This is the highest rate for older workers in the country.
  • The under-utilization of talent is a public concern, as well as a private worry. State leaders who monitor the unemployment rates in their states should pay attention to variation according to age groups. In 2006, Michigan had the highest unemployment rate for those aged 55 and older.
  • In general, the state government workforce in the public sector is aging more rapidly than the private sector. In Nevada and Indiana, over one-third of the state workforce is aged 55 or older. Public sector state leaders have responsibilities for the productivity and the well-being of their workforces.
  • Older adults with more education will have more choices with regard to employment. Higher percentages of older adults in Washington, DC have college degrees (or more) than elsewhere in the country, followed by Maryland, Colorado, Vermont, and Connecticut.
  • Over the next 10 years, occupations such as farming, fishing and forestry and those in production, are expected to decline. Other occupations, however, are expected to grow significantly, creating an increased demand for employees with skills related to those occupations: healthcare support, computer and mathematical science, community and social service, personal care, and healthcare technical occupations. Education and training for older adults in these fields can help meet the gap created by the increased growth in these occupations.

implications for employers

  • Employers in states with anticipated workforce shortages may find opportunities to utilize the older adult population in order to meet workplace demands.
  • Employers in states with high unemployment rates among older adults have the opportunity to expand recruitment to different demographic groups by hiring older adults and retirees.
  • Due to anticipated workforce shortages, employers may find that offering flexible work options or other benefits to older adults will encourage them to work past traditional retirement ages.



  • State Statistical Profiles (November 2007-April 2008)

  • State Profiles Executive Summary (September 2008)


For questions of information regarding the State Contexts project, or to schedule a conversation with any of the Center's team, please contact:

617-552-9195 |


the state contexts project team

Vanessa Careiro
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 M. Wong, JD, MSW