If Demography Is Destiny…

White America is aging.

I know that won’t come as a huge surprise to many of the readers who comment here–a number of you reside in my own age cohort, and–shocked as I am by how quickly it seemed to happen–I have to admit that I’m pretty old.

I posted a while back about America’s changing electorate, and the fact that some 4 million Americans turn 18 –voting age–every year. Also every year, two and a half million older Americans die.

I recently came across yet another article considering America’s ongoing age shift; this one was titled “White America is Getting Older.” Here’s the lede:

A news release from the Census Bureau published on Thursday morning summarized three-quarters of a century of American history succinctly. It was titled, “America Is Getting Older.”

This is the Census Bureau, so the assertion was backed up with data. The median age in the U.S. rose to 38.9 years in 2022, up 0.2 years from 2021. Over the past year, 46 states saw increases in their median ages. Four states (and D.C.) saw no change.

This isn’t surprising but is, instead, a continuation of a long-standing trend. But there is an important detail that’s easy to overlook here: The increase in age is largely a function of White Americans getting older — a distinction that itself helps explain an awful lot about American culture and politics in the moment.

As the article explains, the Americans who are beginning to die off were part of the post WWII “baby boom.” That boom began at a time when immigration was constrained,  and as of 1970, about 84 percent of the country was non-Hispanic White, and the median age was just over 28.

A few years ago, the Census Bureau released data showing the age of Americans by race. At that point, the most common age for a White American was 58. The most common age for a non-White American — Black, Hispanic, Asian, mixed-race, etc. — was 27. For Hispanics, the most common age was 11.

The charts accompanying the article show that most White residents of the U.S. are older than the country’s median age, while most Asian, Black and Hispanic residents are younger. “Whites make up 52 percent of the population under the median age — and two-thirds of the population over it.”

The article notes–almost gratuitously, since most of us know it–that the people who are aging are those most likely to be voting Republican. As the report concludes,

It’s easy to see how this percolates into the political and cultural conversations. We have a heavily White older population that is competing for power and resources — like funding for schools or senior centers — with a more-diverse younger population. We have a partisan divide that overlaps with the age divide. We have explicit and implicit political appeals that center on the country’s changed demography.

In other words, we are at a point in America’s trajectory where demographic change is too obvious to ignore. That awareness helps explain the eruption of more explicit racism, as an older White age cohort tries frantically to hold onto its diminishing social dominance.

If we step back a bit to view the ebb and flow in historical context, it seems very likely that–once these older White Americans have passed away–our politics will calm down and settle into a new, (hopefully more equitable) normal. The danger, however, lies in what we might think of as the “death rattle” of an aging and angry elderly White Christian cohort.

The 2024 elections will tell that tale. If the nearly departed can install Trump and his ilk–in Indiana, Braun and Banks (both of whom have enthusiastically endorsed Trump)–they will continue on their merry way: arming the unhappy, forcing women to give birth, and  awarding judgeships to partisans who will cheerfully dismantle the protections of the Bill of Rights. Embedding those policies for yet another term will make it difficult if not impossible for demographics to save us. If there is no Blue wave in 2024, demographic “destiny” will take a lot longer–assuming it can be achieved at all.

I sure hope the Democrats are working  hard on getting out the vote……


  1. The census needs to double their efforts. Ten years between counts is too far apart especially since the Pandemic. How much has changed since we counted in 2019-2020 when these matters were done?

    I would imagine that covid wiped out several million baby boomers that hung to every word of tfg’s administration. They didn’t get vaccinated or boosted and died when they were infected.

    I know my 42 yr old cousin in Alabama got covid four times (because he worked with 45 supporters and lived in Alabama) and is still recovering from damage to his heart. The doctors were going to put in a pacemaker last week but his health has finally improved where they are in a wait-and-see mode. My 30+ year old neighbor is permanently disabled from covid she had in December 2020. She sleeps 20 hours a day since.

    What I’m saying is 10 years between census counting may have been “enough” before, but I believe we need to move it up to every five years. Also, we need to shut down every counter protestor media ad so that everyone gets counted. The propaganda against the census is another affront to our democracy. Thanks for nothing (looking at you conservatives).

  2. I think many of us share Sheila’s surprise at being old, now, I know that I do. I’m an old white male, but not an angry one…unless one counts my anger at the MAGA and denier crowds, who can’t tolerate facts and data, and think tag is the cat’s meow. (There, there’s an-old phrase).
    They can’t tolerate change, but do not realize that for things not to change they will have to change, to paraphrase a line in “The Leopard.”
    I’m hopeful about the younger folks, except that studies have shown that Hispanics tend to vote
    Republican, and they are increasing in numbers the most.

  3. “The article notes–almost gratuitously, since most of us know it–that the people who are aging are those most likely to be voting Republican.”

    I found the above statement to be particularly interesting; I always dreaded going through the Census form with pages of questions covering a variety of issues. The 2022 Donald Trump Census form I received contained TEN questions after my personal demographics. Question 1. How many Hispanics live at your address? Question 2. How many Hispanics live at your address who are not listed in question 1? Questions 3 through 10 were, What is the race and ethnic background of persons living at your address? As an old white woman living alone who doesn’t have Hispanics, Blacks or any other race living in my home; I was probably assumed to be one of those old white Republican voters. Things are not always what they seem and Trump’s 2022 Census was seeking one form of information primarily; where are those Hispanics hiding?

    My destiny as an old white Democratic woman is in jeopardy today as never before in my 86 years. The upcoming November 7th election scares me but the 2024 Primary and General elections scare the hell out of me as Trump continues to slither through all of his indictments as he did through his seditious rantings and treasonous actions leading to the indictments and he is being allowed to blatantly continue his rantings and actions. Obviously with no legal action available to stop him as it would any of us. He was warned in the January 6th indictment that he could be “held” if he violated any of the warnings he was given but he continues unabated. The truth of the matter was spoken by Donald Trump early on in his continuing attempted coup; that he could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it”. He is part of that aging White Demography but remains above all laws and all morals which would be acted on all other Americans of all ages.

  4. There is just too much fear on both sides of the aisle about the future. We need to listen to each other and work out the best sensible plan between the parties while ignoring the cries of fear that some people espouse. I myself admit I have had a terrible feeling about the extremist elements I’m seeing but I can’t let that overshadow the good I can see in people no matter what side of the aisle. Most people aren’t out to do harm and are just exhausted of some of the negative media coverage and each parties crappy antics.

  5. Democrats need to listen and pay attention to the complaints of the youngers out there, and to the rural population and their legitimate concerns for the future. If they/we do not pay attention to them it will be the end of American democracy.
    It is time to get rid of the geriatric congress.

  6. The country as a whole has moved to the left. The problem fir the young voter is their unawareness of the political corruption in Washington. It was the first Presidents warning as he left office that the demise of this country will start after if it understands it can borrow against itself. He made consistent calls for the government to have a balanced budget after it spent necessarily beyond its means to fight a war.
    The democrats are working hard to secure power and are using January 6th and Trumps iladvised moves, and they were illadvised, just ask his VP, calling it an insurrection and now racketeering.
    Here is a podcast from the Dailysignal on the immediate start after Jan6th from an author Julie Kelly

    The real problem our nation faces is not whether red or blue is on charge but whether anyone on either side can recognize how the national debt causes the FED to put the country in a recession, hard or soft.
    The poorest of the poor again are hurt most.
    Its kind of like the movie
    “I Care A Lot”. Where the common folk are like the elderly and are systematically getting the wool pulled over theit eyes as the rich politicians pad their pockets.

  7. James has squarely hit it, especially regarding the rural (red) population, who have legitimate complaints. They see their communities and livelihoods floundering but don’t see that they’re being manipulated by the Right, who feed into their grievances by demonizing the Democrats (big city liberal politicians) while not offering solutions. The Dems have traditionally written the rural folks off as lost to the Repubs, so why bother? We can never be so sure of a group/district, whether red or blue, that we can’t take the time to visit, listen, and act. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who didn’t “bother” visiting certain districts because they were already blue…

  8. My Dad is an elderly Republican who is very sick from doing his duty in Vietnam. He’s very fearful of communism and it’s so sad to see him so afraid. And that’s understandable considering immigration at the Border and the instability of communist countries like North Korea. North Korea really needs assistance to help its people and yet the leader is suspicious of any U.S. involvement. I’m sure my Dad knows that desperate people do desperate things and it’s not always logical or ethical decisions people make when people are under a tremendous amount of fear and stress. Additionally, my father is a pennypincher because he was brought up poor and so any amount of money spent he considers excessive or unneccessary in Congress just upsets him. My Dad is not a perfect humanbeing but some of his concerns in these areas seem valid to me.

  9. While I am hanging on to the hope that in 2024 Biden will remain our President, I have lost hope for Indiana. Barring some miracle, the ultra radical Banks will take Braun’s Senate job and as governor Braun will take Indiana even further to the right.

  10. The Democratic Party should run on socializing healthcare – medicare for all should be a no-brainer with the aged population at hand. It’s even popular with younger citizens. Republicans would have to climb aboard or risk losing votes themselves.

    Medicare for all should be a slam dunk where both parties come together to help an aging population and relieve young people from working for an employer to receive healthcare.

    The only thing preventing the parties from seeking universal healthcare is the cabals of the healthcare industry, which have commodified and profitized our health and wellness. The politicians either serve us, or they serve the oligarchs — it’s that simple.

  11. Remember Sheila’s post about projection? Here is are quotes from tfg about Ruby Freeman, whom he accused of stuffing ballots in Georgia: Freeman was ‘a professional vote scammer and hustler,’ Trump lied, calling the 60-something Freeman a ‘known political operative.'”

  12. John S and all…check the data…https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/09/americans-conservative-obama-trump-joe-biden

    Regarding the report referenced in the blog: “most of us know it–that the people who are aging are those most likely to be voting Republican. ” Curiously left out is the strong data that shows that “people who are aging are most likely to vote” and “the two groups less likely to vote their numbers are young people and minorities” – double whammy.

  13. I would be very careful about assuming time will fix the problem. There are many right-wing organizations targeting younger people. Prager “U” is now officially a Florida curriculum option, (rightwing lunatic youtube personalities make millions of dollars from their followers – many of those stars are in their 30s. You don’t get paid hundreds of millions if you’re not popular.

    Just because you think the arc of time bends towards justice, there’s no reason to be confident it will ever get there.

  14. First of all Republican bashing is fun here but it’s more useful to understand why.

    Demographics largely inform those of us steeped in both old time authoritarian culture and what’s changing. It is what it is.

    Coming inevitably, the future terrifies them which they interpret as a revolution on our part. There’s some truth in that too for us who understand what’s been and what’s replacing that. We are less concerned about the change and perhaps more informed about the inevitability.

  15. “Just because you think the arc of time bends towards justice, there’s no reason to be confident it will ever get there.”

    Dirk; thank you for that profound observation of the reality we are living today. Those who believe justice is being served due to the indictments, which should have happened long before now, have no idea how that the justice system survives on postponements. Like Trump’s 19 or more actually filed sex abuse charges disappeared from all court calendars till E. Jean Carroll’s case was acted on and his conviction is meaningless as he continues his slander. The rape charge was changed to “sex abuse’ which prevented Trump from becoming a registered sex offender. Trump’s demography of being one of our old, fat, white men will not see the inside of any jail as his destiny and the destiny of this nation is in his hands, not the judicial system or the arc of time bending toward justice for all.

  16. … to be confident it will ever get there *without work*

    I should have added to the end of that initially to say we could influence the bend with effort. Didn’t mean it to sound so doom and gloom. =)

  17. The older white populace has had a disproportionate ability to access healthcare over the last 70 years, at least affordable healthcare served by mostly white males. We know that research and test trials have been using that same cohort, white males, as the basis for developing new treatments and medications for most of my lifetime.

    Covid changed the game in profound ways not seen in over a century. tfg captured the racists, evangelicals and misogynists among that group, catering to their self-delusion of entitlement and invincibility. Covid continues to sicken, disable and kill the elderly, even as the rest of the population is moving toward herd immunity with the help of vaccinations, boosters and anti-virals when covid is contracted. Again, it is likely to be the wealthier (relatively speaking) white population that has means and access to proactive resources. When the nearly departed actually do exit, those left to the next chapter of our governance will likely be faced with many unforeseen challenges, many of which will be viral in every sense of the word.

    Religion and its dictates provides even the growing minorities with that same sense of entitlement and invincibility. When non-white Hispanics ascend to power, as seems to be the trajectory, will they have the means and sensibility to change the Republican Party as we know it today? If Central American countries are any predictor of future political development within that demographic, authoritarian patriarchy seems to be the likeliest outcome for the U.S.

  18. JD – kudos for your last thought. Almost invisible in our MAGA-dominated talk are two things that “seem to be true”:

    1. Asian-Americans and Latinos share many of the religious/cultural/”bootstrap” values of the Right, and…
    2. “Resent” all the attention to Blacks (who may be viewed as lazy) given by the DEMS

    Deadly duo for the future….

  19. “I sure hope the Democrats are working hard on getting out the vote….”. Amen.
    On a hopeful note, I find it hard to imagine that any significant number of people who voted for Biden in 2020 will decide to vote for Trump in 2024, so if TFG is the Republican nominee, as so many pundits claim is inevitable, I expect him to lose. That’s assuming Biden is his opponent. But I do understand that a lot can happen in 15 months. I feel no certainty about the future.

  20. I’m don’t understand what my elderly white comrades fear about the future. After all, many of us have short futures. Many of us who outlive our actuarial time, especially the better off MAGAs won’t suffer from the deprivation we have imposed on so many. Many people work long and hard for little or no gain. They are the ones I worry about. We need universal health care, but it has to be better than Medicare and Medicaid. It has to cover all of everything! We also should have a minimum income. People shouldn’t have to choose between food, utilities, and rent!

  21. Peggy; I am 86 and I have a deep, unending fear of and for the future for those who will live long after I am gone. Our generation is partially to blame for the current chaos, terrorism and little to look forward to in our remaining time. Donald Trump didn’t suddenly sprout up among the Republicans suddenly in 2015; his criminal, lying, sexual escapade and abuses had been front page news for decades before he began his Vito Corleone presidency. We viewed his antics as a joke and nothing to fear as being dangerous to us personally. His public personna as “The Donald” became “The Don” of the White House with his family settled in for the long haul. WE should have stopped his post-presidency coup which he began in the Oval Office with his appointed mafia members in attendance and his followers armed assassins on our streets, in our schools, our churches, our businesses and in our government. If you have no fear; you aren’t paying attention.

    “If we step back a bit to view the ebb and flow in historical context, it seems very likely that–once these older White Americans have passed away–our politics will calm down and settle into a new, (hopefully more equitable) normal.”

    Our “passing away” will not calm our politics as they are today, there will never be a new normal as long as one old, fat, white man is allowed by our judicial system at local, state and federal levels to remain above all laws in his determined effort to end democracy and turn this nation into another of those internal wars we watch in those third world counties ruled by insurrectionists with big guns.

    Another Friday in Trumpland with his mentally unbalanced situation gathering support, speed and money. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  22. Peggy, I agree we need universal health care and a basic income. I do worry about those who suffer from hate and prejudice in this world of lies replacing good journalism. We have lost our united States to America, for the the select few. We have forgotten our own immigrant beginnings, sadly.

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