Story last updated at 2:32 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Peninsula population aging, educated
By Hal Spence
Morris News Service-Alaska

As the population of the Kenai Peninsula grows larger, it also is growing older, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau released in May.

Census figures included in the latest quarterly report of key economic indicators published by the borough's Community & Economic Development Division, the population of the borough as a whole grew by 8,889 people in the decade of the 1990s, reaching 49,691.

The central peninsula region grew the fastest, with the largest gains in the unincorporated areas.

Meanwhile, as the population of those between 45 to 54 years of age more than doubled, fewer children were being born and the number of young adults between 25 and 34 fell by almost a fourth.

Helping to push the median age upward from 31.1 to 36.3 years of age during the preceding decade was the relatively rapid growth of the senior population. Those 65 to 74 years of age grew from 1,489 in 1990 to 2,361 in 2000, a 58.6 percent increase. Those 75 to 84 years bounced 157 percent from 419 to 1,077, and those 85 years and older went from 79 to 211, a 167.1-percent jump.

The bulk of the peninsula's population, some 23,461 men and women, or about 47 percent, are between 25 and 54 years of age.

The borough's population remains relatively young, but it is older than the state as a whole, where the median age is 32.4 years. Seldovia has the oldest average age at 45.3 years. Homer and Seward both slightly exceed the borough median, while Kenai and Soldotna are slightly lower.

The 2000 census split the borough into four regions, central, southern, eastern and western. The way counting was done in the latest census was different from the way it was done in 1990, so direct comparisons by region can be somewhat confusing, in part because many residents included as "remainders" in "census subareas" in 1990 were counted as part of specific communities or new "census designated areas" in the 2000 census.

Essentially, though, the growth in the central peninsula outstripped every other region, said Jeanne Camp, an economic analyst with the division. The central region now is home to better than six of every 10 borough residents. Most of the growth occurred outside borough cities.

For instance, Moose Pass grew 154.3 percent, Bear Creek jumped 201 percent, while Anchor Point's population rose by 113 percent, according to the figures. Some locations lost population. Halibut dropped by more than half, from 78 to 35.

Other statistics tell us even more about ourselves. Males make up 52 percent of the borough population, females 48 percent.

Better than 86 percent of us are Caucasian. The next largest group, 7.47 percent, is made up of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Asians make up .97 percent, African Americans .46 percent, and Hawaiians or other Pacific islanders comprise .17 percent of the borough's residents. All other races account for .84 percent. Nearly 4 percent of the population is of mixed race origin.

The population of the borough is relatively well educated.

Some 88.3 percent of persons over the age of 25 in Kenai, which has the largest population among the cities at 6,942, are high school graduates and 16 percent have college degrees.

Of Soldotna's 3,759 people, 87.6 percent of those over 25 have graduated high school and 15.5 percent have graduated from college.

In Homer, with a total population of 3,946, those figures are 92.4 percent and 29.2 percent respectively, while in Seward, with a population of 2,830, the figures are 86.7 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively.

Hal Spence is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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