There’s more to measuring a state’s population than its big total.
The age, sex, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics of each resident provides context about who lives in the state. Knowing the demographics of a place informs governments not only about the current residents within certain borders but can help prepare for the challenges they might face in the future.
We’ve made population pyramids for the nation, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia. These pyramids use Census data from 2010 to 2017 and can be filtered by various races and ethnicities.
See how the shape of the population differs in each state. Scroll below for our analysis or if you need more insight on how to interpret population pyramids.
What do the pyramids say about the American population?
Americans are living longer, getting older, and there are fewer kids. The 65 and older population grew from 41 million in 2010 (12% of the population) to 51 million in 2017 (16% of the population). At the same time, the number of children 9 years old or younger fell from 40.5 million to 40.2 million.
The story changes when looking at race and ethnicity
The non-Hispanic white population pyramid remains the largest among all major races and ethnicities, though its shape has been shifting upward, and therefore, older. In that group, the 55 and older population grew 15% from 60 million in 2010 to 69 million in 2017. The 54 and younger population fell 6% from 138 million to 129 million.
Other racial and ethnic demographics, specifically Asian and Hispanic, are seeing growth across age groups. The Hispanic population grew 16% from 51 million to 59 million. The Asian population grew 25% from 14.8 million to 18.4 million. The two groups have different shaped pyramids, as the Hispanic population pyramid resembles a pointed bell showing largely young population, while the Asian pyramid resembles a mushroom.
What about the states
Not all states have similarly shaped population pyramids.
Maine is a state that stands out as it has a population pyramid where the base is much smaller than the top. This shape suggests that Maine has far fewer youthful residents relative to older residents. In particular, the largest grouping of residents in the state is aged 45 to 69 years old.
Every state saw the share of their 65+ population increase.
Utah is a particularly youthful state with a wide base in its population pyramid showing that a substantial portion of the state’s residents is under the age of 25.
“Lumpy” and oddly-shaped states
The District of Columbia’s pyramid shows lots of young people living in the area ages 20 to 39. This age demographic, unlike population cohorts, is resoundingly stable over time with a similarly shaped population pyramid in 2010 as it has in 2017.
What stands out about population pyramids in U.S. states when you look at sex, race, and ethnicity?
Nationally, the female population outnumbered the male population by 5 million in 2017. The District of Columbia had the highest share of female population at 52.7%. Males outnumber females in just 11 states, all in the west: Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho and Washington.
Race and ethnicity
Non-Hispanic white people make up the majority of the population in all but six states or equivalents: Hawaii, District of Columbia, California, New Mexico, Texas and Nevada.
In every state between 2010 and 2017, the population and the population pyramids grew for Hispanic and Asian populations. The non-Hispanic black population pyramids grew in all but two states: Illinois and Michigan.
The non-Hispanic white population pyramids for 24 states got smaller, with New York seeing the biggest drop at 366,000.
What is a "population pyramid"?
A population pyramid is a data visualization tool showing the age makeup of a certain area. Demographers, or social scientists that study population trends over time, use population pyramids extensively because it’s a quick way to gather lots of insights about how a population is aging over time. Usually, the “pyramid” places older populations at the top, youngest at the bottom and splits the left and right sides by sex. There’s no strict requirement for how groups of the population are arranged by age.
What does the shape mean?
When a population pyramid looks like a triangle with equal-sized sides, it means that the population skews particularly young. When a pyramid is more squared, it means the age groups are relatively the same size. Short bars mean that certain age groups form a smaller part of the population. If a bar juts out, it means the opposite.
Sometimes population pyramids take on odd-shapes with lumps. These spikes in population represent a momentary population boom that reflects societal trends. Baby-boomers and Millennials often show up in U.S. population pyramids as Americans after World War II and in the 1980s tended to have more children than previous generations.