Oil boom fuels drop in age in Great Plains states

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 26, 2014 at 1:48 pm •  Published: June 26, 2014
Advertisement
;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Want to reduce the effects of aging? Try oil.

The United States' population is still getting older, but that's changing in the Great Plains because of the attraction of working in the booming oil and gas industries.

The aging baby boom generation helped inch up the median age in the United States last year from 37.5 years to 37.6 years, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau. But a closer examination of those numbers shows that seven states — Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming — actually became younger.

Credit for the de-aging of the mainland states between 2012 and 2013 goes to the increase in oil and gas exploration in the Great Plains. The Census Bureau offered no reason for the decrease in the median age in Alaska and Hawaii.

"We're seeing the demographic impact of two booms," Census Bureau Director John Thompson said. "The population in the Great Plains energy-boom states is becoming younger and more male as workers move in seeking employment in the oil and gas industry, while the U.S. as a whole continues to age as the youngest of the baby boom generation enter their 50s."

Williams County, North Dakota, which the Census Bureau called the center of the country's Bakken shale energy boom, had the largest decline in age in the United States — 1.6 years.

Energy production is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. The boom in the U.S. follows the use of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, to tap oil and gas reserves.

The age changes for the mainland states were mostly minuscule: Montana dropped from 39.962 to 39.898; North Dakota from 35.881 to 35.270; Oklahoma from 36.233 to 36.226; South Dakota from 36.841 to 36.818; and Wyoming from 36.854 to 36.828.

Alaska dropped from 33.606 to 33.246, while Hawaii dropped from 38.138 to 37.963.

The county with the highest median age was Sumter County, Florida, at 65.5. The county with the lowest median age was Madison, Idaho, at 23.1.

WHAT'S CHANGING ABOUT AMERICA?

Non-Hispanic whites are still by far the largest racial group in the United States, with a population of 197.8 million. (All other racial and ethnic groups make up 37 percent of the population, or 118.3 million.) But Asians, not Hispanics, were the fastest-growing group in 2013.

The country's Asian population rose by almost 2.9 percent to 19.4 million, an increase of about 554,000. That increase was fueled by immigration, which accounted for 61 percent of the population increase.

While the number of Asians grew the fastest last year, Hispanics still are the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, making up 17.1 percent of the total population in 2013. The Hispanic and Latino population grew by 2.1 percent to more than 54 million, a rise fueled by more births, which accounted for 78 percent of the of the total population change.