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Illinois Getting Older, According To Census

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois' population is getting older, with new Census data showing that the median age pushing past 36 over the past decade.

Economists and others say this continues a steady trend and will have far-reaching effects for the state for years.

Illinois and states across the country have been getting for older for some time as baby boomers age and, for states in the Midwest and Northeast, people leave for warmer, often more-prosperous areas.

But the new figures show the steady aging continues, likely ratcheting up the demand for social services even as the percentage of the population still in the workforce drops off. And in states like Illinois, where governments struggle to find the money to pay for their existing obligations, that weight could prove particularly burdensome.

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According to the new data, the median age for Illinois was 36.6 in 2010, up from 34.7 in 2000 and 32.8 in 1990. The national media age was 37.2 last year, up from 35.3 in 2000.

"The consequences of this are kind of endless," said Matthew Hall, a sociologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Institute for Government & Public Affairs.

Not only does an aging population mean a smaller percentage of the people in the state likely are working and paying taxes, but more of them are likely to be retiring and, if they're government workers, drawing on "somewhat generous" pensions that are increasingly difficult to pay for.

Across the Midwest, rural areas that people have been leaving for years likely are aging even faster and getting poorer in the process, said Ernie Goss, a regional economist at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

Goss said the people leaving are "just younger, meaning that what's left behind (is) older."

At the other end of the spectrum are metro areas which, Hall said, tend to draw enough people to keep their populations younger and, in the process, their economies and local tax bases healthier. Chicago is the leading example.

"Just because of the economic engine that is the Chicago metro area, they're able to compensate for the aging of the populations through migration," he said. "The Chicago metro area is very much a thriving metro area."


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