Slowly, but noticeably, the population of the United States is becoming older and more racially diverse, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

The latest estimates released Thursday, May 14, quantify the changes, which could influence builder business decisions and housing trends in coming years. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

For All Builders: The median age for Americans reached 36.9 years in 2008, up 1.5 years since 2000. The 191.2 million in the working age population, from 18 to 64, represents 62.9% of the population, grew one percentage point.

If You Build Active Adult: There were 30.0 million people 65 and older, comprising 12.8% of the total population compared to 12.4% in 2000. And, as anybody who’s ever visited a senior center can testify, the percentage of women to men climbs over time. While the number of women and men in the total population is almost equal (50.7% are women), for those 85 and older, women out number men two-to-one. In terms of state demographics, the “oldest” states were, predictably, Florida with 17% of residents 65 and older. The less predictable runners-up were West Virginia (16%) and Pennsylvania (15%).

If You Serve Buyers With Children: The estimated percentages of children under 5 and in high school, compared to the general population, was relatively stable, up only a tenth of a percentage point. But the number of elementary school children from 5 to 14 was down by 1.3 percentage points.

If You Want to Capture New Buyer Markets: Minorities, defined as anybody who wasn’t a single-race non-Hispanic white person, grew 2.3% in one year in the estimates, now making up 34% of the population. Hispanics were the fastest growing of the minority group, climbing 3.2% from 2007 to 2008. Asian residents were the second-fastest growing minority group, increasing 2.7% in a year. In addition, the number of people who considered themselves to be of two or more races increased 3.4% from 2007.

One more important note for builders planning for the future: The populations of Hispanics, blacks, and Asian were all younger on average than white people, 27.7, 30.3, and 34.2, respectively. The average age of single-race non-Hispanic white population was 41.1.

If You Develop Land: Builders who make land decisions may also want to consult the Census data as they look ahead to housing's recovery and envision future projects. The estimates released Thursday paint a picture of the varying ethnic makeup of counties and states and how they’ve changed. Nearly 10% of the nation’s 3,142 counties had a majority population of minorities on July 1, 2007 with 56 tipping to over half minority since 2000.

Here are a few of those highlights:

  • The population in six counties in the U.S. became composed of a majority of minority residents between 2007 and 2008, with more than half reporting themselves to be other than single-race, non-Hispanic white. They included major home building market Orange County, Fla. (Orlando area) as well as Stanislaus (Modesto), Calif.; Finney, (Garden City) Kan.; Warren, (Vicksburg) Miss.; Edwards (Rocksprings), Texas; and Schleicher (Eldorado), Texas.

  • Such patterns can fluctuate. One locality--Webster County, Ga.--that was majority-minority in 2007 swung the other way in 2008. But with a population of only 2,390, and the numbers sitting close to 50% minority, just a couple of people moving in or out in a month could swing the majority back and forth regularly.

  • Not surprisingly, several Texas counties had the highest percentage of minority populations: Starr (98%), Maverick (97%), and Webb (95%).

  • Four states had a population of a majority of minority residents in 2008: Hawaii (75%); New Mexico (58%); California (58%) and Texas (53%). No other states had more than 43% minority population.

The Census data also highlighted other spots with demographic profiles on the far reaches of the age or gender spectrums.

  • The “oldest” county, with 34% of the population 65 and older, was Las Paz, Arizona, home to the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Following were Highlands, Fla. (32%) and Lancaster, Va. (32%)

  • The “youngest” county, with only 3% of the population 65 or older, was Chattahoochee, Ga. Second and third were Eagle, Colo. (4%) and Shannon, S.D. (5%).

  • The “youngest” states were Alaska, with 7% of the population 65 and older, Utah (9%) and Georgia (10%).

  • There were only 11 states where men make up the majority of the population: famously, Alaska at 52%, not so notably, Nevada, 50.9%, Wyoming (50.7%), Utah (50.5%) and Colorado (50.4%).

Finally, builders and developers looking to serve the single female buyer should consider the District of Columbia, which at 52.7% female has the highest percentage of women of any state or state equivalent. It is followed by Maryland (51.6% women) and Mississippi (51.5%).

Teresa Burney is a senior editor at BIG BUILDER and BUILDER magazines.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL, Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta, GA.