Census shows Alaska becoming more like the rest of U.S.

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- The latest census figures confirm what Alaska women already know.

The Last Frontier isn't chock-full of lonely bachelors.

While men still outnumber women slightly, the gap continued to narrow over the past decade with the closure of military bases around the state.

''It's sort of been a myth that's carried from the 50s and the postwar period before statehood,'' said state demographer Greg Williams. ''In most respects, we're beginning to look a lot more normal as a state.''

Census figures released Tuesday show men made up 51.7 percent of the state's population last year and women 48.3 percent. Men made up a slightly larger percentage of the population in 1990 -- 52.7 percent.

Nationwide, women outnumber men 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.

The closure of military bases also resulted in a decline in Alaska's black population. The number of Alaskans identifying themselves as black slipped in the 2000 census to 21,787, or 3.5 percent of the population. That's down from 22,451, or 4.1 percent of the population, in 1990.

''A substantial portion of the black population in the state has always been associated with the military in Anchorage and Fairbanks,'' Williams said.

The state remains largely white, with 69 percent of Alaskans identifying themselves as such. But that's down from 75 percent a decade ago.

American Indians and Alaska Natives make up the largest racial minority at 15 percent of the population -- unchanged from 1990.

Asians constitute the second-largest racial minority at 4 percent of the population, up from 3.2 percent a decade ago.

While Alaska is still a relatively young state compared to the rest of the United States, Alaskans are getting older. The median age rose to 32.4 in 2000, compared with 29.4 in 1990. Nationally, the median age is 35.3.

The state also saw big increases in the number of older Alaskans. The number of residents age 65 to 74 increased to 22,500 from 15,500 a decade ago. And the number of Alaskans age 75 to 84 nearly doubled, to 10,500 from 5,500.

The number of children under the age of 5 declined from nearly 55,000 a decade ago to 47,500 in 2000.

Williams, the state demographer, fears the census may have undercounted the number of children under the age of five.

That's because, in rural areas of the state, where families are largest, the census was conducted as a door-to-door survey. The forms used in the door-to-door survey had space for only five people. Households with more than five people were instructed to list only the names of those over age five living in the home.

The mail-in survey form had space for six people, with instructions to list the names of those older than five.

''That has a variety of interesting implications, including an undercount of rural versus urban Alaska,'' Williams said.

The percentage of Alaska households identified as married couple households slipped to 52.5 percent in 2000 from 56.2 percent in 1990.

The percentage of households headed by a female without a husband rose to 10.8 percent from 9.6 percent.

The number of Alaskans living with an unmarried partner rose to 2.6 percent of households from 2.1 percent.

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