The Tri-Cities at 300,000: Older and more diverse than ever

U.S. Census Bureau planning for 2020 count

By reusing information people have already provided, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to improve accuracy and reduce the need for census takers to knock on doors in 2020.
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By reusing information people have already provided, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to improve accuracy and reduce the need for census takers to knock on doors in 2020.

As the Mid-Columbia population approaches 300,000, the community is getting older and it is getting more diverse.

The U.S. Census Bureau updated its 2018 population estimates Thursday with detailed demographic information that shows the median age for Washington rose to 37.7 last year, up 0.4 years in eight year.

North Dakota was the only state to record a drop in the median age. Maine was the nation’s oldest state. Utah the youngest.

The government previously released basic population estimates for 2018 that show the Tri-Cities added the equivalent of a Walla Walla in less than a decade.

Figures released this week provide a deeper look at the age and cultural makeup of the country.

Nationally, the median age for whites grew by a year, for Hispanics by 2.2 years and for blacks or African Americans by 1.4 years.

For American Indian/Alaska Natives it increased 2.2 years, for Asians by 1.7 years and for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders by 2.6 years.

Franklin County remains among the youngest in the region. It is also one of the fastest aging counties with a median age of 30.3 years. That’s up nearly two full years from 2010.

Benton County’s median age rose 0.4 years to 35.9.

In Benton County, 15 percent of the 202,000 residents were 65 or older.

In Franklin County, 9 percent of the 94,347 residents were 65 or over. The national average was 16 percent.

Growing demographic

Tai Fei, a retired postal worker who lives in Richland, is about to be part of that growing demographic.

She turns 65 in August, though you wouldn’t realize it to watch the high-energy Zumba teacher at work Wednesday at John Dam Plaza.

Zumba instructor Tai Fei, 65, of Richland is passionate about teaching the aerobic dance exercise to people of all ages in the Tri-Cities. She teaches classes on Wednesday for Richland Parks and Recreation.

Originally from Taiwan, Fei moved to the U.S. when she married. She moved to the Mid-Columbia when her son graduated from Gonzaga University and started a family in Eastern Washington.

In retirement, she’s embraced her passion for dancing, teaching exercise classes at the Richland Community Center.

She teaches free Zumba classes through Richland’s Workout Wednesday program. The weekly class normally meets inside, but this week’s moderate temperatures led the group into the park.

Fei said she’s far from the only active senior in her group.

“My students are all grandmas,” she said.

More diverse than ever

The region isn’t just getting older. The new Census figures confirm the Mid-Columbia is more diverse than ever.

In Benton County, the Hispanic community grew by nearly 37 percent. Franklin County recorded a 25 percent increase in Hispanic residents.

The Census Bureau defines Hispanic as being of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

There were more than 51,000 Hispanics of all races living in Franklin County in 2018, making it the majority group.

Small gains in other groups drove big percentage gains compared to 2010.

Benton County’s black or African American community grew to 5,800 — a 50 percent gain. In Franklin County, the community grew to 3,644 — a gain of about 53 percent.

The Native American/Alaska Native population grew 29 percent to nearly 4,000 in Benton County and by more than 51 percent, to 2,560, in Franklin County.

The Asian community grew by 38 percent to 8,900 in Benton County and by 46 percent to 3,000 in Franklin.

Over the same period, the population of Washington state grew 12 percent to 9.5 million.

Dig into Census data at factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Starting in July, Census data will be available at data.census.gov.

U.S. Census Bureau

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.