Alaska and Age

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Denali National Park 

What could be better than a state with views like this which also gives away free money each year? Some readers know I live in Alaska and that I work for the Permanent Fund Dividend Division. I review applications from people who claim to be Alaska Residents so they can receive a dividend every October. We receive over a little over 600,000 applications each year. Nearly everyone living in Alaska applies.

I say “claim” to be residents because some people lie on their applications, or try to use one of the allowable absences when they know they are not going to return.

So what does Alaska’s age range look like and what might it tell us about when people move to or move away from Alaska? I was wandering around on our division’s website today and found the 2015 graph below:


There are high numbers of young children on file, then there is a dip in the number of 15-19 year-olds. Maybe young people leave for college or just go to see what else is out there. I hear from a lot of out-of-state college students and often, their helicopter parents, asserting they will be back when they finish school. Statistically however, they are least likely to return after an allowable absence.

The columns representing 25-34 jump back up. Could it be young people who do return after an adventure down south? Is that column bolstered by  members of the military stationed here? There is also a tide of military members and families who leave to be stationed elsewhere, but claim an allowable absence since they state they will return to remain indefinitely as soon as they can. Many long-term non-military Alaska residents suspect the average military family does not return, even though people claiming military-related absences have to show they make regular returns and many do return permanently. It seems like most of the people who come to the office and mutter fraud tips have something to say about military families.

There’s a strange lull from 35-49, then a leap in the 5os. People move here as they retire? I’ve also met a number of older people who move to Alaska to live with their adult children.

And finally, the average person lives about 79 years so the big drops from 65 to 79 make sense. Yet some of the reduction might be people who leave the state to retire elsewhere.  Just look at the parade of negative temperatures here in Fairbanks in the last few weeks (-20 F starts to make today’s -8 feel downright balmy) and you might understand why many people bail out at 65, but look at some of my other pictures and you might know why people decide to stay indefinitely.

aurora 21 Feb from cabin

Photo by Garrett Savory


Photo by Author, Fairbanks in autumn

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Happy Alaskan resident fishing for Red Salmon in the Copper River

One response to “Alaska and Age

  1. For the older age groups in your graph, did you adjust for normal mortality? Is the decline in applications greater than the normal death rate?

    If so, then it may be because of a higher death rate due to climate. Where I live in Texas, there are always several summer-time deaths due to heat, and they are disproportionately higher among older people (there’s also some risk for newborns). It may be that Alaska has an equivalently disproportionate winter-time death rate for older people.

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