Los Gatos Weekly Times
Bay Area aging faster than the rest of U.S., census data reveals
We're really aging, Bay Area. And fast.
The region grayed rapidly over the last decade, according to Census Bureau data released June 22, with the populations in all nine Bay Area counties outpacing the country in their upward median-age swing.
Marin County, our undisputed grandparent, shot up to a median age of 48.2 — a full decade older than the region's young in Santa Clara County. After COVID-19 started, San Francisco's median age — meaning half the population is older and half younger — shot up two years to 40.5 in just two years.
Compare that to the United States' median age, which climbed about 1.5 years from 2012 to 2022, according to the new Census Bureau data.
It's the latest evidence of the region's aging population that has also shown up in recent census reports, including a 38% spike in the number of residents 65 and older over the last decade and a 12% drop in youth 5 and under.
What's behind the Bay Area trends? The explanations point primarily to one thing:
“We have one of the worst affordable-housing crises in the country and one of the highest costs of living,” said Abby Raisz, research manager at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, an economic policy think tank.
In Santa Clara County, experts say that the affordability crisis is offset by tech companies, which attract young families who keep the county's population on the younger side. In other parts of the region, like
Marin County, young people are being repelled by the skyhigh cost of living and are not drawn back by compelling job prospects. In 2022, Marin had a median age more than nine years above the national median.
Marin was almost five years older than the secondoldest Bay Area county, Sonoma, which had a median age of 43.3. Napa (42.9), San Mateo (41.3), Contra Costa (40.7), San Francisco (40.5), Alameda (39.3), Solano (39.1) and Santa Clara (38.2) round out the list.
San Francisco's median age spiked almost two years after 2020, a direct link to the pandemic when young people who could work remotely fled big urban centers for more space.
When counties have a significantly older population, it can strain local resources. Older adults are less likely to work fulltime and therefore contribute less to income tax revenue, experts say. But at the same time, they rely heavily on public services, such as access to good health care.
“Cities and counties that don't get ahead of this (aging trend are) … going to find themselves with a health
care catastrophe as these older people don't have access to the health services they need,“said Matthew Lewis, director of communications for the pro-housing group California YIMBY.
And it's not just a Bay Area problem.
Many counties in Southern California show similar signs of rapid aging. Los Angeles County, for example, has had a median age increase of about 2.9 years from 2012 to 2022, which is about on par with Marin County's increase. But L.A.'S median age, 38.2, still was a full 10 years younger than Marin's.
Meanwhile, some rural parts of the state, such as Lake County and Shasta County, have gotten younger since 2012. The median age for Lake County dropped 1.9 years to 43.9, and Shasta declined 0.8 years to 41.4.
Looking at the long-term trajectory of the Bay Area, our population only seems to be getting older. It's a trend that experts believe is likely to continue into the future.
“The birth rate is just continuing to slow,” Raisz said. “The implications for the (future) labor force are pretty dramatic and drastic.”