Population Diversity

According to the 2010 U. S. Census and the State of the Nation’s Housing 2011, a publication of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, we continue to see demographic changes due to changes in immigration and the minority populations. Minorities account for 92 percent of the total U. S. population growth between 2000 and 2010, and the growth of the population under the age of 18 was at 1.9 million, driven mostly by racial/ethnic minorities. Immigrants and minorities also account for a large percentage of the household growth in the past decade. The Echo Boom generation is already 42 percent minority and over the next 15 years this diverse generation, along with other minority households, will increase the demand for smaller starter homes, apartments, and remodeling projects. Statistics Canada places the percentage of visible minority residents in Canada at 16.2 percent (about 5 million people) in 2006, up from 13.4 percent in 2001.

The largest increases for the United States are among Hispanics. Since 2000, the Hispanic popula­tion in the United States has increased 43 percent and has doubled since 1990. According to the 2010 U. S. Census, there are 50 million Hispanics in the United States, or one in every six residents and about 16 percent of the population. The U. S. Asian American population increased 43 percent since 2000, but Asians still make up less than 5 percent of the total population.

Immigration also had a key role in the slowdown in household growth. During the 2000s, not only did the growth of the foreign-born population slow, but the growth of foreign-born households stalled due to the recession. Although the number of households headed by foreign-born citizens increased by about 200,000 from 2004 to 2010, the number of foreign-born noncitizen house­holds declined by the same amount from 2007 to 2010.

An Aging Population

The 2010 U. S. Census places the 65 and older population at 38.6 million, up from 34.9 million in 2000. The U. S. population between ages 65 and 74 is expected to increase 6.5 million over the next decade, a rise as more "baby boomers" reach retirement. The 55 to 64 age group is expected to grow by 3.7 million. Over the next 20 years, the share of 65 and older will rise from 13 percent of the population to 19 percent. Estimates of the Canadian 2011 Census by Statistics Canada places their 65 and older age group at 14.1 percent of the overall 2011 population number of 34,600,346, with a large portion of the over 65 group living in more rural areas.

Increased life expectancy is credited with some of the increase in this older age group. When the United States was founded, the average American was expected to live to the age of 35, but ac­cording to the World Bank, the 2009 life expectancy of U. S. citizens is 78.1 years of age and for Canadian citizens it is 80.66 years of age.

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2010 states that this increasing number of "baby boomer" re­tirees has dominated housing market trends for decades and will continue to have a significant impact. As they purchased their first homes and then traded up to bigger, better homes, the sheer numbers of individuals in this group has shaped the housing market. Now, as they reach retire­ment, many are seeking housing to meet their current needs, either by making changes to their current home or by moving to a smaller home.

The number of older homeowners able to move from their current residence has declined sharply in recent years due to the nation’s financial crisis that depressed home equity and reduced retire­ment income. This trend will open the market for remodeling projects that allow people to "age in place." Those boomers who can relocate tend to downsize to smaller homes with fewer rooms and one-level living.

For both the remodeling market and new, smaller retirement home market, there will be an in­creased interest in bathrooms that are safe, comfortable, and ergonomically designed. Of course, accessible design will be critical for those aged individuals with disabilities. See chapter 8, "Acces­sibility in Practice," for additional characteristics of this population and design applications ap­propriate for them.