Census: Region getting older, more diverse

Miami Valley counties have become more racially diverse in the past five years and have more residents over 65, according to annual population estimates released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data from nine area counties show that both growing areas, like Warren and Butler counties, and those that are losing population, like Clark and Montgomery counties, are experiencing a shift to older and more diverse residents.

“As far as the diversity, I’m happy to see that,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “I think that’s going to be a key to growth and actually will help us have a trend to have younger people.”

The census’ estimates only break down information on race, sex and age to the county level, but Montgomery County, including the city of Dayton, is the most diverse in the region.

That’s important as the city and county try to stem population loss by attracting jobs and young people, Whaley said.

“If you see the communities that are growing, they are the ones that are more diverse across the country,” she said.

The numbers partially back that theory. While the Ohio county with the largest non-white population, Cuyahoga, is losing population, highly diverse Hamilton and Franklin counties are gaining residents.

Montgomery County is the fourth-most diverse in Ohio with a makeup of about 74 percent Caucasian, 21 percent African-American, 2 percent Asian, and 3 percent multi-racial. Nearly 3 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic, and those individuals can also be counted as white, black or other races.

More diversity is indicative of a forward-thinking city that attracts young creatives, said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge.

And local counties are struggling to keep young people.

In Montgomery County, the 65-and-older age group made up about 15 percent of the population in 2010. That increased to nearly 17 percent in 2015.

Those 25-and-under accounted for nearly 33 percent of the population five years ago, but are down to less than 32 percent, according to the latest estimates. The numbers show a loss of 5,700 young people and a gain of 9,400 senior citizens.

Clark County has one of the highest shares of senior citizens of any local county with those 65 and older making up 18 percent of the population. That’s above the state average. The 65-and-up group made up about 15 percent of Ohio’s population in 2015.

“We definitely are a mature community,” Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said. “It means we are not retaining our young people, which ties in with our population loss.”

The county has lost about 1.7 percent of its population since 2010.

“To counter this we need to have livable wage jobs,” Detrick said.

Having a large senior population is a concern, he said, because seniors use county and municipal services but contribute less in tax revenue. Retired individuals don’t pay income tax and low-income or disabled senior citizens can qualify for the homestead exemption to reduce property tax bills.

There also is a challenge in attracting businesses with an older labor force, Detrick said.

“It’s a major concern for cash-flow,” he said.

Statewide and nationwide, the population is aging. Ohio’s median age has increased from 38.8 in 2010 to 39.3 in 2015.

The oldest county in the country is Sumter, Florida, where 54.8 percent of the population is over retirement age. The median age is 66.6 years.

Ohio and the Miami Valley also follow the national trend of increasing Hispanic populations. The nation’s Hispanic population totaled 56.6 million as of July 1, 2015, up 1.2 million, or 2.2 percent, since July 1, 2014, according to the census.

The fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the area are in Greene and Champaign counties.

Greene County’s Hispanic population has increased by more than 1,200 since 2010 and Hispanics account for nearly 3 percent of the total population.

Butler County is the most heavily Hispanic local county with more than 4 percent of its population reporting they are Hispanic.

A growing Hispanic community is reshaping the face of cities like Dayton and Hamilton for the better, said Claudia Cortez-Reinhardt, executive director of the Greater Dayton Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The group has had increased calls from local Hispanics looking to start businesses, and she’s seen a trend of young people staying in the area as adults.

“They’re trying to stay in the (family) business,” she said. “The young Hispanic population, they feel at home in Dayton.”

An increasing immigrant or migrant population can pose challenges, Detrick said. Clark County has for a number of years seen an influx of Hispanic residents that work in numerous garden centers and other agriculture businesses.

“It’s a good trend,” he said. “They’re in farming and nursery jobs and they’re being assimilated into the community.”

The Teaching and Mentoring Communities center in New Carlisle, a Head Start program for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, serves more than 150 children each year.

Warren County, which is growing, has seen some increase in Hispanic population, but leads the area in terms of Asian residents.

Asian individuals made up more than 5 percent of the county in 2015. The county has seen an increase of 2,900 Asian individuals since 2010 to get to a total of more than 11,000 in 2015. That’s about the same number of Asian people who live in larger Montgomery County.

Mason City Manager Eric Hansen said those numbers aren’t a surprise.

“I think people are following the jobs,” he said, adding that the area has seen multi-national corporations open locally, attracting a diverse workforce from outside the region.

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