Sep 14, 2023 - Economy

Where America stands: New power centers, aging population

Illustration of a series of pie and bar charts laid out and colored to resemble the arrangement of the U.S. flag

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Americans' incomes are falling, they're getting older, and they're decamping to states like Florida, Idaho and South Carolina.

  • That's one big takeaway from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2022 American Community Survey (ACS) one-year estimates, released this morning.

Why it matters: The ACS is one of the best resources available for a regularly published quantified look at myriad facets of American life, down to a remarkably local level.

By the numbers: Some key findings include...

  • Nationwide median household income fell 0.8% between 2021-2022, to $74,755, adjusted for inflation.
  • Americans' median age hit 39 years old, up from 38.8 in 2021 and 37.4 in 2012. (It's 40.1 for women, compared with 37.9 for men.)
  • Florida (+2.1%), Idaho (+2%) and South Carolina (+1.8%) saw the highest rates of population growth between 2021-2022, while New York (-0.8%), Louisiana (-0.7%) and Illinois (-0.7%) saw the biggest decreases. (Population is affected by in- and out-migration, but also births and deaths.)
Change in estimated population, 2021–2022
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

The bright side: An aging population is a sign of advancements in health care, and is especially noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic's outsized mortality rate for elderly Americans.

  • And while the median household income fell, the poverty rate did not increase in any state — and improved notably in Washington, D.C., where it fell 3.1%. (It's possible for median household income to fall somewhat without hauling a large number of families below the poverty line.)
  • The share of American households making $100,000 or more, meanwhile, rose from 34% to 37%.
Change in the share of U.S. households, by income
Data: U.S. Census; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Zoom in: Diving into the state-level data underlines a key truth about American life: Where you live matters a great deal for your particular experience.

  • Median household income, for example, increased in a handful of states — Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Florida and Utah — while there were "no statistically significant differences" in 28 others plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, per the Census Bureau.
  • The child poverty rate, meanwhile, dropped in 11 states but increased in West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Be smart: The pandemic "changed the geography of where money is made in the United States," Axios Macro's Neil Irwin reports, as many higher-income Americans left cities like New York and San Francisco.

Of note: Because this release is based on 2022 data, it's capturing what some call the "late pandemic era," when many elements of normality returned but the pandemic still loomed in the background, affecting many aspects of life.

What we're watching: Whetherand how much of — 2022's population change data was a pandemic-era blip.

  • Did lots of people move to Idaho for the long haul, for example, or was the state merely a temporary refuge for high earners with remote jobs?

The bottom line: What's out from the Census Bureau today is a fascinating trove that Axios will be exploring in greater depth over the coming weeks and months.

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