Eleven ways to look at the United States, visualized

The most detailed yearly snapshot of the nation’s population provides numerous angles to view the country.
Image credit: Pluribus News, via Flourish

Every December, the U.S. Census Bureau unveils results of the annual American Community Survey, the most detailed yearly look at the nation’s population the government produces. The data give us new ways to view the nation and its population.

Forget red states and blue states. Here are 11 ways to see and measure the nation, based on this year’s data:

Gray States

Maine has the population with the highest median age, at 44.7 years old. Snowbirds who leave New England for Florida make the Sunshine State almost as old.

Utah sits at the other end of the spectrum. The median age there is just under 32 years old.

Unhitched States

A higher share of Americans in West Virginia, Arkansas and Maine are divorced. Utah, California and New Jersey have the lowest divorce rates.

Mountain West states Idaho and Wyoming have the fewest residents who have never been married. New York and California have the highest share of those who have never married — but Washington, D.C. is a massive outlier. More than 55% of District residents have never tied the knot.

Most Educated States

Massachusetts is famous for its plethora of universities, so no wonder the Bay State’s population has a higher share of bachelor’s degrees than any other state. The rest of New England is nipping at its heels.

Again, Washington, D.C. is an outlier. Almost two-thirds, 63%, of District residents over the age of 25 has a bachelor’s degree.

Service States

America’s veterans disproportionately like to live in Alaska. Former service members make up 11% of the state’s population, a higher share than any other in the nation — which might have something to do with the Permanent Fund Dividend that state residents receive every year.

Virginia, Montana and Wyoming are all high on the list of states with the most veterans. Washington, D.C. is once again an outlier — this time on the low side. Only 3.6% of District residents served in the armed forces.

New States

Well, not new, but new to some residents. This map charts the share of residents who lived in a different state one year ago. The Mountain West is a hot destination for those looking to put down roots somewhere new, and nowhere is hotter than Idaho.

California, long the destination for migrants both foreign and domestic, doesn’t have the appeal it once did. Just 1.1% of its residents lived in another state last year, the lowest rate of any state in the nation — though don’t forget, 1.1% of California’s 39.2 million residents is still a lot more people than 5.1% of Idaho’s 1.9 million residents.

Lingual States

Nearly 44% of California residents speak a language other than English at home. So do more than a third of Texans, and more than 30% of Floridians, New Yorkers, New Mexicans and New Jerseyites.

Appalachians and Montanans are most likely to speak English at home.

Static States

A state’s unemployment rate can fluctuate from month to month, but the share of the population that isn’t counted in that figure — those who are not looking for a job, and thus out of the workforce — is just as important as an indicator.

Deep South states and Appalachian states have the highest non-participation rates. The Upper Midwest has the lowest such rates.

Social Security States

The share of a state’s population that receives income from Social Security tracks closely with the states with the largest share of retirees and the highest median ages — West Virginia, Maine and Florida are near the top of the list.

Other states high up there are states where disproportionate segments of the population report disabilities. Washington, D.C., is once again an outlier, this time at the bottom end of the spectrum: Only 19% of households reported receiving income from the federal program.

Home States

The housing market is cooling down as interest rates rise, but it will still cost nearly five times more to purchase the median home in Hawaii as it would to buy the median home in West Virginia or Mississippi.

High home costs may be one of the reasons both California and Hawaii are shedding residents — and why Idaho, at about half the cost of California’s median home, is so attractive to movers right now.

Rents are also highest in Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, states where the vast majority of people live in dense urban or suburban areas. Renting a home or apartment in Hawaii or California sets the average person back $1,000 a month more than if that person sought out a unit in West Virginia.