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Wyoming’s population is continuing to age and diversify

senior citizens
Judy Baxter
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Flickr via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Recent figures published by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’sEconomic Analysis Division show that the state’s population isgetting older and more racially diverse. The numbers were based off analysis from theU.S. Census Bureau’s yearly estimates, which include changes to population, sex, race, and age.

According to Wenlin Liu, Chief Economist of the Economic Analysis Division, the two major trends that are occurring inWyoming are playing out in a similar way in many parts of the country.

“The population continues to age really fast,” Liu explained. “The main reason is because baby boomers [are] getting older. The other factor is, even both for the U.S. and for Wyoming, is the fertility rate continued going down.”

The state’s elderly population, which consists of those over age 65, increased 3.6 percent between July 2020 and July 2021, according to Census Bureau estimates. This contrasts with the statewide population growth figures, which showed just a 0.3 percent increase during that same period. Liu said that an outmigration, especially of young people, has added to an aging population. However, even with this trend, Wyoming still ranked in the middle compared to other states in 2021.

“Ever since the first Baby Boomers turned 65 years old in 2011, there has been a rapid increase in the size of the older population,” Liu said.

The figures also indicate that there is a sizeable discrepancy between the Baby Boomer generation (born from 1946 to 1964) and younger generations as Wyoming has one of the highest proportions of Baby Boomers and one of the lowest proportions of Generation X (those born in the mid-1960s to approximately 1980) in the country. This equates to a difference of around 13,000 fewer people aged 45-54 than 60-69.

Since 2010, Wyoming’s population of those aged 65 and older increased from 70,090 to 103,877, a 48.2 percent increase, which was higher than the national rate for that period of 38.7 percent. This group constituted 17.9 percent of the population in 2021. If current trends continue, this population is expected to reach 135,000 by 2030, or approximately 20 percent of Wyoming’s total population.

The aging population raises concerns that the state will be able to meet the future workforce needs.

“Wyoming does not have sufficient resident workers to replace retiring Boomers in normal economic conditions,” Liu said. “Wyoming’s demographic transition and labor market environment provides excellent opportunity and encouragement for unemployed residents who are looking for jobs within the state as many Baby Boomers are exiting the labor force.”

Liu added that it’s the existing population that’s adding to the aging trend, not necessarily those moving to the state. There are also more people who are moving elsewhere for retirement and fewer who are coming in for their retirement years. Those that are tend to be more concentrated in certain areas such as Cody and Sheridan, he added.

The younger populations, including those under age 18, have declined since 2020.

The change in demographics is also of note in the Census Bureau’s findings. Wyoming’s total minority population is defined as any group other than non-Hispanic white.

“The non-Hispanic white population only increased 0.1 percent, but the minority [population] increased 1.2 percent and the Hispanic [population] increased 1.5 percent,” Liu said.

Nearly all of Wyoming’s population growth since 2010 has been from minority groups. This is primarily due to the uptick in increased the Hispanic and Latinx populations, which consisted of 61,087 people in 2021. The African American population remained stagnant, at 6,016, which was the same as it was in 2020. The Native American and Asian populations both experienced slight declines while those classified as biracial or of two or more races saw a 3.1 percent growth rate.

Non-Hispanic whites, which is still the majority of the state’s population, only grew about 0.1 percent. 16.7 percent of Wyoming’s population are minorities. This ranks the state 8th lowest in the nation for proportion of minorities. This stands in contrast to the national level, where just over 40 percent of the total U.S. population are minorities.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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