Chattanooga Times Free Press

Age group amplified

County outpaces state, country in growth of population aged 25-34


Outpacing a statewide and national trend, Hamilton County is seeing more people in the youngest third of what researchers call the prime working-age population — those aged 25 to 54.

In Hamilton County in 2022, the youngest third, ages 25 to 34, made up 14.4% of the population. For both Tennessee and the nation, the percentage was 13.7%, according to the latest five-year average population estimates released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among the three working-age groups, the fastest growing in Hamilton County during the past decade was the 25 to 34 group.

The growth among those ages in Hamilton County doubled that of the nation’s over the past decade. The county also outpaced the state.

The 25 to 34 group grew by 20.4% over the past decade in the county, compared to 14.7% and 10.2%, respectively, for the state and nation.

Among those in that age group who’ve moved to the Chattanooga area in recent years is Chip Ellis.

Ellis, 31, moved to the area when he was 26. He said in a phone interview he and his family were interested in the area’s outdoor activities from previous visits to Chattanooga.

“I had gotten exposed to all of the different activities it has to offer,” Ellis said, “despite being a fairly smaller city and still feeling like a small city.”

And though the city has grown, Ellis said Chattanooga has the feel of certain other places before they experienced a population boom.

“It has the feeling of an Austin or Asheville 10 to 20 years ago,” Ellis said. “It feels like a city that has everything that we really want right now and also stands to grow into even more in the future.”

According to the Tennessee State Data Center, which is housed at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the state as a whole from 2020 to 2022 saw an additional 48,076 people in the 25 to 54 group, the prime w

Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center, said in a phone interview the overall increase is from people moving from out of state.

“The main part is driven by net migration, which is more people in that age group moving into the state than are moving out,” Kuhn said.

The secondary effect, he said, is “this large millennial cohort aging into the workforce,” Kuhn said.

Dan Reuter, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, said in a phone interview younger people today are able to move for jobs, more so than in previous generations.

“A lot of folks are mobile, have to move for jobs,” Reuter said. “Folks moving to where there’s employment and incomes.”


Even with the increase in the prime working-age population, the number of those entering retirement in Hamilton County — age 65 and over — is even greater.

But the county’s growth among the retirement age population is in line with both the state and nation. The county and state’s growth rate during the past decade among that group was 34%. For the nation as a whole, it was 35%.

The state data center says an additional 59,727 people ages 65 and older took up residence in Tennessee from 2020 to 2022.

According to census numbers released last week, those 65 and older in Hamilton County made up 18.1% of the population in 2022.

For the state and nation, respectively, it was 16.8% and 16.5%.

“We’re growing in a way that’s more — what I’m inclined to say — is more of a natural Southern growth city, meaning we have folks moving here to retire,” Reuter said.

The primary boom in the older age group, Kuhn said, is a large generation — the baby boomers — reaching retirement age.

“A large number of people born between 1945 and 1965 that are moving into retirement age,” Kuhn said. “That’s the primary driver of growth.”