Generation Gap, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from xflickrx’s photostream

We often hear that Pittsburgh has a relatively high population of elderly residents. However, the latest census data showed a drop in the city’s median age — bucking a longtime trend. How does our area really compare to the rest of the nation? The Brookings Institution’s State of Metropolitan¬†America is an ongoing effort by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program to chronicle the demographic shifts transforming America’s metropolitan areas and to discusses what these trends imply in terms of public policy. The report has a section devoted to the age of the population. Some key findings from that report can be found here. They note vastly different trends around the country in what they call ‘The Uneven Aging and “Younging” of America.’ Some of their findings may surprise you.

While it’s not surprising that Baby Boomers account for an overall nationwide growth spurt of those in the 45 and older category, the areas of the country — including Pittsburgh — which have the highest concentration of elderly residents are not the areas which are experiencing the most rapid growth of seniors. This is in part due to the phenomenon of “aging in place.” In other words, people who flocked to the Sun Belt from the Snow Belt/Rust Belt for jobs in the last couple of decades have remained there and are now aging there. Whereas, cities like Pittsburgh — which lost population over the years — do not have a large percentage of people now crossing over into their senior years. (We do, however, have an increase in residents who are 85+).

The State of Metropolitan America looks at trends in areas other than age. The report includes breakdowns on the following demographics: population and migration, race and ethnicity, immigration, households and families, educational attainment, work, income and poverty, and commuting. You can read the full report here. Additionally, you can see a breakdown specifically for Pittsburgh on all of the above key indicators here.