Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting Older Matters

My musing began with this post on an Economist blog that said,
[T]hat nearly a third of the voting public is 65 or older does not quite capture the overwhelming electoral heft of seniors. Retirees are disproportionately likely to actually show up at the polls. Moreover, the interests of seniors are more unified than those of younger voters whose electoral might is divided between often competing and offsetting interest groups. The votes of small business owners and school teachers tend to cancel each other out, but America's silver foxes constitute a more or less consolidated force fighting for the protection of old-age entitlements.
Then I read this post from Reimagine Rural with the following analysis:
In a recent post titled “Retention Efforts Target Wrong Age Group”, [Jim Russel] cites Australian research suggesting that college graduates leave to see the world, but they often return, sometime between ages 30-44.

This leads Russell to write:
“I’ve advocated for the attraction of the 30-44 cohort. They are likely to stick around once you get them there. Good luck retaining a recent college graduate who moved to your city. You might call them place sluts. Hipsters are particularly salacious, following the scene wherever it might pop up. The good news is that they pave the way for thirtysomethings, who price out all the twentysomethings your town spent so much money trying to retain.”
The message is: Younger adults are going to leave because it’s in their DNA to leave.  But they might seek to return in their thirties or early forties when it’s time to raise a family.
The combination of these two posts caused me to wonder how if Yankton County is attracting the coveted demographic cohort and if the county is aging.  I'm pretty sure the answer to the former is resoundingly no because the county appears to be aging rapidly.

According to the Yankton Office of Economic Development, the county's median age is 40.2.  In 2000, the median age was 37.1.  According to the US Census Bureau, South Dakota's median age is 36.9.  In 2000, the median age was 35.6.

One doesn't need to be a math whiz to see that Yankton County is aging more quickly than the rest of the state.  Quick math indicates that the county's median age rose by 8% while the state's median age rose by 3.7%.

According to Yankton Office of Economic Development, the county gained 786 residents between 2000 and 2010.  I realize that the math that produced the following number is flawed because it doesn't take into account birth rates, death rates, high school graduate migration, or any number of other factors.  Even with that admission, it's striking that if the change in the median age had been caused by only the 786 additional residents, their median age would have to be 125.  That number makes it pretty clear that the county is not keeping recent high school or college graduates nor is it recruiting the 30-44 year old cohort with their children.

Even without the weird math to prove the point, it's clear that Yankton County is aging rapidly. Because an aging population tends to vote en bloc, all political entities and politicians are going to have to determine what this group wants.  If legislators, city or county commissioners, and school boards fail to account for this group, their political lives are likely to be nasty, brutish, and short.

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