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Median age in Great Plains states slides amid oil boom as rest of America keeps getting older

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2014, file photo, an oil truck sits in a dirt lot near a new housing development in Watford City, N.D. The United States is still growing older, but the trend is reversing in the Great Plains, thanks to a liberal application of oil. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

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FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2014, file photo, an oil truck sits in a dirt lot near a new housing development in Watford City, N.D. The United States is still growing older, but the trend is reversing in the Great Plains, thanks to a liberal application of oil. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

WASHINGTON - 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 centre 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 per cent 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 per cent to 19.4 million, an increase of about 554,000. That increase was fueled by immigration, which accounted for 61 per cent 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 per cent of the total population in 2013. The Hispanic and Latino population grew by 2.1 per cent to more than 54 million, a rise fueled by more births, which accounted for 78 per cent of the of the total population change.

Native Hawaiians had the second-highest rate of increase at 2.3 per cent, while American Indians grew by 1.5 per cent and blacks by 1.2 per cent. Non-Hispanic whites grew by 0.1 per cent during that same time period.

Census officials estimate that whites will no longer be the majority in the United States in 2043, when it is estimated that the total number of minorities will be more than the total number of whites.

The median age for non-Hispanic whites was 42.9, while the median age for minorities was 30.5 years.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE MOST ...

If diversity is what you want, California is the place you want to be.

Census figures showed that California had the nation's largest number of non-Hispanic whites (15 million); Hispanics (14.7 million); Asians (6.1 million); and American Indians and Alaska natives (1.1 million). New York, meanwhile, had the largest number of blacks (3.7 million), and Hawaii had the largest number of native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders at 366,000.

The locations change when you look at the percentage of each race by state.

Maine had the largest share of whites at 94 per cent; Alaska had the largest percentage of American Indians and Alaska natives at 19.4 per cent; Hawaii — the nation's only majority-Asian state — had the largest share of Asians at 56.3 per cent and native Hawaiians at 26.1 per cent; Mississippi led the nation in blacks at 38.1 per cent; and New Mexico led in Hispanics at 47.3 per cent.

The states change again when looking at the largest numerical increases of each race and ethnicity.

The Hispanic, black and white populations grew the fastest in Texas, which gained 213,000 new Latinos last year, 78,000 new blacks and 51,000 new whites. California had the largest numerical increase of Asians (142,000); American Indians and Alaska natives (13,000); and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (7,000).

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

The Census Bureau said there were only 10 states that had more men than women in 2013: Alaska at 52.4 per cent, North Dakota at 51.1 per cent, Wyoming at 51 per cent, Hawaii at 50.5 per cent, Nevada at 50.4 per cent, Utah at 50.3 per cent, Colorado, South Dakota, and Montana at 50.2 per cent and Idaho at 50.1 per cent.

The states with the highest percentages of women were Delaware at 51.6 per cent, Rhode Island at 51.6 per cent, Massachusetts at 51.5 per cent and Maryland at 51.5 per cent. The District of Columbia had a higher percentage of women than all the states at 52.6 per cent.

___

Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

U.S. Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov

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