Rural upstate counties, for the most part, come up short in census snapshots examining the percentage of total population between the ages of birth and 5 years old.

And when it comes to folks who have had at least 65 birthdays, they are a growing component of the population.

Those are some of the trends one can spot in a new cascade of national population distribution statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

So we're getting older.

But an analysis of the data by E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany think tank, concludes that New York is not aging quite as fast as the rest of the nation.

Our population of people who are age 65 or older, as of mid 2018, rose by 3 percentage points since 2010, McMahon said. That pace is a bit below the national average: 3.9 percent.

The trend that I see as ominous, though, is the low number of young children in many counties.

Consider Delaware County in the western Catskills. Out of 62 New York counties, it came in 60th with regard to the percentage of population made up by children younger than age 5.

Essex, Schoharie and Otsego counties were also low in the pack, placing 59th, 58th and 55th respectively.

Doing slightly — but not much — better on the young children gauge were Franklin (46th place) and Clinton (45th) counties.

Niagara, in the state rankings, nestled just about in the middle, taking the No. 29 spot out of the 62 counties.

One of the upstate counties that does have a relatively high percentage of young children is Oneida, home to the city of Utica and its robust communities of refugee families.

McMahon determined that the median age for all New Yorkers as of 2018 was 39 years old — an increase of a single year since 2010. The median age of Americans as of last year was a bit younger than the New York age — 38.2 years.

Getting back to the senior cohort, the census breakdown has Delaware County -- yes, the same place that could use an infusion of kids — placing second in the state in percentage of population older than 65.

Essex placed fourth; Schoharie ranked Number 7. Otsego came in ninth. Clinton County placed 17th and Franklin was 51. Chenango County was in the 12th spot. Niagara took the 24th berth.

The census data does not explain why these trends are happening.

McMahon noted that both Delaware and Essex County are sparsely populated, poorer counties.

On the national front, an analysis by the news outlet Stateline has found that smaller cities — those with fewer than 200,000 people — gained population at a more rapid rate than America's big metropolises between 2017 and 2018. Its analysis suggested that rising housing prices led more people to abandon the big cities in favor of the closest suburbs.

Small towns with fewer than 10,000 people saw population gains at a higher rate than earlier in the decade.

So that is one bright spot. At least for the nation.

If we're lucky, those of us who would like to see at least moderate growth in our towns and small cities in upstate New York will experience this trend soon. But we know that will take more than luck.

And, by the way, while we do have cold winters, the weather is not the issue.

Look at North Dakota, where the shops have never experienced a shortage of tanning products. It was the only state whose median age got younger, going from 37 years in 2010 to 35.2 years in 2018. This trend happened to coincide with an energy boom.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at