Build It and They'll Move

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Drivers on Interstate 80 coming out of Reno, Nevada, won't be surprised to learn that the Silver State boosted its number of housing units by a whopping 48 percent during the 1990s. On both sides of I-80, clusters of new, single-family homes with large, turn-around driveways dot the landscape. A construction site for yet another subdivision can be seen in the distance. Indeed, Nevada posted the strongest percentage increase in housing units from 1990 to 1998, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, easily surpassing neighboring Utah, which recorded the second-highest increase during the same time period at 22 percent.

Nevada also posted a 57 percent increase in the number of households aged 65 and over during the 1990s. Is it just coincidence that housing starts are up and the senior population is booming? Probably not. Besides the aging of its own population, the state is drawing retirees attracted to its gambling meccas, comfortable climate, and no state income tax. "It's a double whammy," says Marc Perry, a demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. "Nevada has residents who moved there 30 years ago who are now over 65, and it's got the guy who moved there last year who is also 65." Both groups are helping to keep construction workers busy.

Arizona, another long-time retiree magnet, saw its number of senior households grow 28 percent from 1990 to 1998. Florida remains the grayest state of all, with 29 percent of households aged 65 and over. Pennsylvania (26 percent) and West Virginia (26 percent) are not far behind.

Nearly every state recorded a decline in the number of households aged 25 to 34, a natural result of the aging of baby boomers and the smaller cohort of Generation Xers. A few locations around the country experienced significant increases in the number of 45-to-54-year-old households, perhaps an early indication of where boomers are heading for their retirement years. The number of these households in Colorado rose 73 percent during the 1990s, followed by Nevada (72 percent), and Alaska (67 percent). Overall, the Mountain region (encompassing Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) had the greatest rate of growth in the number of households aged 45 to 54 - 64 percent - more than any other area.

For more information on housing units and household distribution, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site at

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