Mountain West Populations Are Getting Older…Faster

The Mountain West has some of the fastest aging populations in the country, which could have some serious implications for the region's economy. 

Idaho, Utah, and Colorado are in the top 10 of states going gray.  

Andrew Friedson, professor of economics at University of Colorado-Denver, said many Western states had relatively young populations until quite recently. But Baby Boomers are aging, birth rates are falling, and retiree migration is growing.

"There’s been a lot of talk about millennials moving to Denver and a lot of these Western cities," Friedson said. “But a lot of people are moving to the Rocky Mountain region for retirement.”

It could cause budget issues for cities and states.

“You have an increasing number of people on entitlement,” said Friedson, “and a smaller state tax base to be drawing from.”

Friedson said aging populations also tend to drive up private health insurance premiums.

But it isn’t all bad news.

Friedson said older non-retired workers tend to be at the highest earning level of their lives, so they have more dollars to spend. Retirees also tend to spend more than average on leisure and tourism activities, which are a big part of the economy in the Mountain West.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.