As state ages, havens for younger adults will grow

As state ages, havens for younger adults will grow


Updated population projections from the Connecticut State Data Center at UConn show a region with slowing growth, an aging population, and a movement toward the region’s core.

By 2040, more than 485,000 people are expected to live in the thirteen towns of the Greater New Haven region, about 20,000 more than today. The populations of the nine “outer ring” suburbs are becoming much older, and are projected to decline in size as people age in place but have fewer children at home. Meanwhile, New Haven and parts of immediately adjacent towns have been growing, attracting a disproportionate share of younger adults, especially those with college degrees. New Haven has 3.6 percent of Connecticut’s population, but accounts for 53 percent of the entire statewide growth in young college graduates since 2000.

The data center’s population projections, funded by the state Office of Policy and Management, are developed using birth and death records, migration data, and the Decennial Census. They are frequently used in publications such as the Greater New Haven Community Index to help describe potential demographic changes across Connecticut. However, local decisions may impact these future shifts. For example, towns that are projected to lose much of their working-age population may modify policies that currently restrict new housing. In a region where 75 percent of population growth over the past decade can be attributed to immigration, changes to federal policies may have an impact as well.

Other than New Haven, West Haven, and Hamden, every town in the region is projected to see a decline in its working age population by 2040, defined as adults between the ages of 25 and 64.

West Haven and New Haven are projected to add more working age adults than any other towns in Connecticut, with much of New Haven’s growth coming from an increase in the number of adults in their 30s and 40s.

Though it will remain smaller than the state’s major cities, these next few decades may be West Haven’s time to shine. West Haven’s working age population is set to grow by larger numbers than any other town in the entire state, with 9,000 new residents of working age, an increase of 30 percent.

Though West Haven’s younger population is growing, young adults will remain concentrated in New Haven, and the city center will continue to be one of the few places in the Northeast to have a population that is majority under age 35, according to the data analysis. By 2040, more teenagers are projected to live in New Haven than the nine “outer ring” towns combined. This presents an opportunity to expand upon the city’s already vibrant youth arts and social justice communities and build up youth leadership and academics.

On the flip side, Connecticut’s outer suburbs will need infrastructure to support their swelling population of older adults. By 2040, one quarter of the “outer ring” suburbs within Greater New Haven will be 65 or older, compared to only 12 percent in New Haven and the Inner Ring.

Overall, New Haven, like other major city centers, is projected to grow and become even more important as a place where the region’s working-age adults are concentrated. Small cities like West Haven are projected to continue to grow and will need to adapt to meet the needs and opportunities of their young populations. Suburbs are becoming older, and their populations are projected to decline as older adults age in place and children leave.

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