UT’s Boyd Center study projects state population to become more diverse, aged

University of Tennessee_218879

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A study by the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research projects 1 in 5 Tennesseans will be age 65 or older and more than 1 in 10 residents will be Hispanic by the year 2040.

The study, authored by Boyd Center Associated Professor Matthew Harris uses birth and death records provided by the Tennessee Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics and migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

MORE ONLINE | Interactive county-level projection of the study

Harris estimates Tennessee’s population will climb 0.7% annually from its current estimate of 6.77 million in 2018 to 7.84 million in 2040.

“We expect population to grow more slowly over the coming decades than it has recently,” Harris said. “Falling birth rates and the fact that a very large cohort — the baby boomers — are aging both contribute to the decrease in population growth.”

Most of that growth should take place in Middle Tennessee, specifically in and around Nashville/Davidson County. Director of the Tennessee State Data Center Tim Kuhn expects Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson, and Sumner counties to gain more than a half million residents by 2040.

Across the state, 66 counties are likely to see population increases and 27 rural counties will experience decreases.

“The benefit of longer life expectancy and the overall attractiveness of Tennessee to retirees will also present challenges as this age group grows,” Kuhn said. “In areas such as housing and transportation, both urban and rural communities will be challenged to address the growing demand for senior services. This isn’t unique to Tennessee; it is becoming more of an issue across the nation and around the world.”

Working-age adults, ages 20 to 64, could also see a fall by 4% in the next 20 years.

“Particularly in rural counties, we may be somewhat concerned about the ratio of working-age adults to retirees,” Harris said.

“That has implications for local tax bases and the types of services that the population needs. To the extent that caring for older relatives decreases engagement in the workforce, effects of this demographic shift on actual labor force participation may be even more pronounced.”

Boyd Center Associated Professor Matthew Harris

Other findings from the population projections:

  • Rutherford County is on the move. Currently the state’s fifth-largest county, it’s projected to surpass Hamilton County for fourth-largest in 2026 and Knox County for third-largest by 2050.
  • The state’s white non-Hispanic population will decrease from 73.7% in 2018 to 66.6% by 2040 and 55.1% by 2070. This decline will occur in all Tennessee counties.
  • The Hispanic population is projected to almost double from 5.6% to 10.2% by 2040, bringing it to roughly 800,000.
  • With 1.32 million residents, the black non-Hispanic population will remain the second largest racial group in 2040. However, the state’s Hispanic population is projected to become the second-largest racial group by 2063 with 1.47 million residents.


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