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In America’s Population Pyramid, Baby Boomers and Gen Z Reign Supreme

Published August 10, 2023
Published August 10, 2023
Morgan Lane via Unsplash

Beauty brands are constantly working to evolve and market their products to the most accurate audience. Census data is extremely helpful for these brands to get a detailed understanding of the population's changing landscape. Recently, detailed data from the Census Bureau's 2020 decennial census was published, revealing an aging population and a racially diverse younger generation. BeautyMatter lays out the key facts and puts them into an industry perspective:

Aging Population

  • From 2010-2020, the over-65 population (seniors) grew by two-fifths (38.6%), which is over twice as much as the category's growth from 2000-2010 (15.1%) and more than triple the rate of growth from 1990-2000 (12%).
  • The senior growth rate from 2010-2020 is the highest decade-long growth of this cohort the US has experienced since the 1880s, and the largest numeric gain (15.5 million) in history.
  • The reason behind the gain is said to be the large baby boomer generation turning 65 during this decade.
  • The median age in 2020 was 38.8, compared to 37.2 in 2010, and 35.3 in 2000.
  • The broad labor force age (18 to 64) grew at a slower rate during the 2010s (4.2%) compared to during the 2000s (11.6%) and 1990s (13.2%).
  • The under-18 population declined in the 2010s (-1.4%) after a small increase in the 2000s (2.6%) and substantial growth in the 1990s (13.7%).
  • This decline is being attributed to fewer births due to lower fertility, more people deciding against having children, an aging population, and a decline in immigration in the later end of the 2010s.
  • Seniors are now one-sixth (16.8%) of the overall population—well above their 12.4% share in 2000 and 9.2% in 1960.
  • During the baby boom, the youth population comprised more than one-third (35.8%) of the population—dropping to nearly one-fifth (22.1%) in 2020, after slow growth and then an absolute decline.

The aging population leaves an opportunity for new markets within the beauty industry. Today, several brands are aiming to attract Gen Z and millennials, with the only real examples of beauty for those older than these groups being the increasing menopause market and anti-aging products. The clear customer base for senior beauty in the US opens the door for beauty brands to reimagine their SKUs typically marketed to this generation, with the potential for a new booming market to compete alongside the already heavily saturated category of young-consumer-based brands. After all, the Gen Z and millennial beauty lovers currently being catered to will only grow up, and expect beauty to do so along with them, while meeting their evolving expectations. Creating brands and SKUs that cater towards seniors now will not only see success through its current consumers, but also build a foundation for a strong brand that will provide for millennials and Gen Z once they reach this age.

White Population Decline

Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever. Due to the increasing percentage of non-white Americans, several brands are coming to market to cater to these people's needs. This is exemplified through the increase of BIPOC and melanated skin brands, as well as marketplaces that specifically stock POC brands. With over 50% of the under-18 population identifying as non-white, this market is only sure to continue to grow rapidly. Essentially, to reach younger generations effectively, beauty brands need to adjust their product offerings with the evolving population, ensuring they cater to a diverse customer base.

  • During the 2010s, the white population registered a decline in age groups below 55, but contributed to gains in the older age groups, especially the 65 to 74 group, which is attributed to the mostly white baby boomer population reaching that age.
  • In the case of younger non-white groups, a rise in births is contributing to a larger non-white popularity, although smaller numbers of births and reduced immigration in the latter half of the 2010s led to a decline in the under-5 population.
  • White declines in younger and middle-age groups are related to the aging of the white population; the number of white Americans entering these age groups (plus immigration) is smaller than the number aging out of the category.
  • Racial minorities comprise over half of the zero to 4 and 5 to 17 age groups, with Latino or Hispanic Americans representing more than a quarter.
  • In contrast, white Americans comprise about three-quarters of the 65 to 74 and 75 and older age groups. Over the entire age spectrum, white population shares increase with age.
  • The 2020 census is the first to show that less than half of US children under age 18 identified as white.
  • In 2000, there was a “old-young racial gap” of 22.7%—this is the difference between the older age group’s white share (83.6%) and the younger group’s white share (60.9%).
  • By 2020, although both older and younger age groups became more diverse (with an older white share of 74.8% and a younger white share of 47.3%), the old-young racial gap grew to 27.5%. 
  • Among states, the highest old-young racial gap is in Arizona, where the difference between the white share of the older population and the white share of the younger population is 40.7%.

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