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The Front Line: Visualizing the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk



For complete list, view the full-sized version of this infographic.

covid-19 occupational risk scores
covid-19 occupational risk score

The Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk

Many individuals have been practicing social distancing by working from home in recent weeks. While this arrangement can be a great way to reduce one’s exposure to COVID-19, it’s a luxury that’s available to just 29% of Americans.

The situation for the remaining 71% is uncertain, to say the least. A significant portion of the population has lost their jobs due to business shutdowns and mandated lockdown orders. Others employed in “essential services” have continued working as usual, but may face a higher risk of potential exposure to the virus.

To that end, today’s infographic leverages data from the Occupational Information Network to determine which occupations face the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Methodology and Results

Our score for each occupation is based on evaluating the data on three physical job attributes covered in the occupational database:

  1. Contact With Others:
    How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others in order to perform it?
  2. Physical Proximity:
    To what extent does this job require the worker to perform tasks in close physical proximity to others?
  3. Exposure to Disease and Infection:
    How often does this job require exposure to hazardous conditions?

We assigned each attribute an equal weight, then aggregated them to arrive at a final COVID-19 Risk Score between 0 and 100, with 100 representing the highest possible risk. Jobs with a risk score below 0.5 were excluded from further analysis.

To narrow down the list, we removed most occupations held by fewer than 20,000 people. From the remaining pool, we selected 100 well-known occupations, and included the average annual income and number of workers associated with each based on BLS data.

OccupationCOVID-19 Risk ScoreAverage Annual IncomeNumber of Employed
Dental Hygienists99.7$74,820215,150
Respiratory Therapy Technicians95.0$60,280129,600
Dental Assistants92.5$38,660341,060
Dentists, General92.1$151,850113,000
Orderlies (Patient Care Assistants)90.2$28,06050,100
Family and General Practitioners90.1$201,100114,130
Registered Nurses86.1$71,7302,951,960
Respiratory Therapists84.2$60,280129,600
Radiologic Technicians84.1$59,520205,590
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses82.1$46,240701,690
Surgical Technologists80.6$47,300110,160
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers80.4$72,51071,130
Physical Therapist Aides80.3$26,24047,260
Physician Assistants80.0$108,610114,710
Internists, General (Internal Medicine) 79.8$194,50037,820
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians79.3$56,85056,560
Physical Therapist Assistants79.3$58,04094,250
Physical Therapists78.6$87,930228,600
Occupational Therapists77.7$84,270126,900
Flight Attendants75.6$56,000118,770
Occupational Therapy Assistants75.0$60,22042,660
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers74.9$27,54089,480
Nursing Assistants72.5$28,5401,450,960
Medical Assistants72.2$33,610673,660
Nurse Anesthetists70.8$167,95043,520
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics70.7$34,320257,210
Psychiatric Technicians69.81$32,87071,360
Psychiatric Aides69.0$29,18056,910
Skincare Specialists68.0$31,29050,740
Bus Drivers, School or Special Client67.3$32,420504,150
Home Health Aides66.3$24,200797,670
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education65.8$55,470131,160
Personal Care Aides64.0$24,0202,211,950
Medical Equipment Preparers63.9$36,24055,610
Municipal Firefighters63.2$49,620321,570
First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers62.8$32,450964,400
Pharmacy Technicians62.5$32,700417,860
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists62.1$24,730377,210
First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers61.0$63,34043,760
Nurse Practitioners60.9$107,030179,650
Correctional Officers and Jailers60.4$44,330415,000
Social and Human Service Assistants60.3$33,750392,300
Healthcare Social Workers58.1$56,200168,190
Childcare Workers57.9$23,240564,630
Amusement and Recreation Attendants56.0$22,260319,890
Teacher Assistants55.7$26,9701,331,560
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education55.1$29,780424,520
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education53.8$58,2301,410,970
Massage Therapists52.8$41,420105,160
Medical Secretaries52.1$35,760585,410
Police Patrol Officers51.8$61,380661,330
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives51.8$89,030116,660
Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers51.1$22,260133,970
First-Line Supervisors of Personal Service Workers50.2$38,400228,620
Manicurists and Pedicurists49.4$24,330110,170
Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity47.8$42,080174,110
Food Servers, Nonrestaurant47.6$23,290266,190
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education46.6$58,600609,970
Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers45.5$22,270455,700
Waiters and Waitresses43.6$21,7802,582,410
Food Preparation Workers42.7$23,730814,600
Receptionists and Information Clerks42.6$29,1401,043,630
Couriers and Messengers41.0$28,72075,720
Office Clerks, General40.5$32,7302,972,930
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners40.4$23,770924,290
Food Service Managers40.0$54,240219,160
Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop39.5$22,330473,860
Retail Salespersons38.7$24,2004,448,120
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education37.3$60,3201,051,570
Real Estate Sales Agents36.9$48,690156,760
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive36.5$36,6302,165,310
Construction Laborers36.2$35,8001,001,470
Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs35.2$25,980207,920
Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers33.8$32,810915,310
Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers33.5$23,210213,350
Chief Executives33.4$189,600195,530
Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors32.3$37,260118,520
Sales Agents, Securities and Commodities24.7$64,120415,890
Financial Managers, Branch or Department23.8$127,990608,120
Marketing Managers23.7$134,290240,440
Computer Programmers23.43$84,280230,470
Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners22.7$26,1102,156,270
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks22.0$40,2401,530,430
Personal Financial Advisors20.2$88,890200,260
Education Teachers, Postsecondary19.6$64,78060,930
Financial Analysts19.3$85,660306,200
Postal Service Mail Carriers16.0$55,210342,410
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists14.4$63,120638,200
Management Analysts14.1$83,610684,470
Graphic Designers12.8$50,370217,810
Web Developers12.5$69,430127,300
Computer Hardware Engineers6.0$114,60060,750
Computer Network Architects4.7$109,020152,670

While some of these findings may be obvious—nurses and paramedics have a higher chance of exposure to the virus than lawyers and web developers, for example—these datasets allow us to assign a more quantitative figure to each occupation’s level of risk.

Recognizing Those On the Front Lines

Through the #LightItBlue campaign, communities are recognizing the brave efforts of healthcare workers as they fight the virus firsthand. However, with fewer than a third of Americans being able to work from home, many others are also working on the front lines, and thus deserve our recognition.

Two of these occupations are bus drivers (678,260 employed) and cashiers (3,635,559 employed), both of which require workers to be in close physical proximity with others. The services these individuals help to provide are essential, and despite the risks, many have been working throughout the entire pandemic.

Workers in food stores are the ones keeping this nation from going into civil unrest. Because if there is no one working in the stores, we are in trouble.

—John T. Niccollai, President, UFCW Local 464A

Data has also shown that working from home is largely reserved for America’s higher earners.

Income PercentilePercent Able to Work From Home
Bottom 259.2%
Top 2561.5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

At a time when many Americans worry about paying their bills, the effects of this inequality can be particularly harsh on those near the bottom of the income spectrum. If unable to work from home, these individuals will likely face increased health risks on top of their existing financial difficulties.

Looking Out For One Another

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone differently, especially in terms of the occupational risks faced day-to-day.

Individuals on the front lines, whether they’re taking care of patients or stocking grocery shelves, are placing themselves at risk to ensure our communities can continue to run smoothly. Meanwhile, those fortunate enough to work from home can help flatten the curve by continuing to practice safe social distancing, even on weekends.

The Full List

For reference, we’ve also provided the full list of nearly 1,000 occupations, including jobs with fewer than 20,000 workers. The average risk score of the following 966 jobs is 30.2.

OccupationCOVID-19 Risk Score
Dental Hygienists99.7
Respiratory Therapy Technicians95
Sports Medicine Physicians94.6
Dental Assistants92.5
Radiation Therapists92.4
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons92.3
Dentists, General92.1
Obstetricians and Gynecologists91.8
Orderlies (Patient Care Assistants)90.2
Acute Care Nurses90.1
Family and General Practitioners90.1
Registered Nurses86.1
Pediatricians, General85.1
Respiratory Therapists84.2
Radiologic Technicians84.1
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses82.1
Critical Care Nurses81.7
Radiologic Technologists81.2
Nurse Midwives81.1
Surgical Technologists80.7
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers80.5
Physical Therapist Aides80.3
Allergists and Immunologists80.3
Physician Assistants80
Internists, General (Internal Medicine)79.9
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians79.3
Physical Therapist Assistants79.3
Physical Therapists78.7
Occupational Therapy Aides78
Occupational Therapists77.8
Surgical Assistants77.7
Flight Attendants75.7
Occupational Therapy Assistants75
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers75
Nuclear Medicine Technologists74.8
Naturopathic Physicians74.6
Neurodiagnostic Technologists74.5
Nursing Assistants72.5
Medical Assistants72.2
Nurse Anesthetists70.8
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics70.8
Athletic Trainers70.6
Psychiatric Technicians69.8
Psychiatric Aides69
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physicians69
Ophthalmic Medical Technologists68.5
Skincare Specialists68.1
Special Education Teachers, Preschool67.4
Bus Drivers, School or Special Client67.3
Anesthesiologist Assistants67.2
Home Health Aides66.4
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians66
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education65.8
Endoscopy Technicians65.8
Patient Representatives65.1
Speech-Language Pathology Assistants64.9
Personal Care Aides64
Medical Equipment Preparers63.9
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists63.7
Municipal Firefighters63.3
First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers62.9
Recreational Therapists62.8
Hearing Aid Specialists62.7
Pharmacy Technicians62.5
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians62.3
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists62.2
Clinical Nurse Specialists62
Transportation Security Screeners61.4
First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers61
Nurse Practitioners60.9
Immigration and Customs Inspectors60.8
Exercise Physiologists60.7
Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians60.7
Correctional Officers and Jailers60.4
Social and Human Service Assistants60.3
Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs59
Pharmacy Aides58.8
Municipal Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors58.3
Healthcare Social Workers58.2
Childcare Workers58
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School57.2
Orthotists and Prosthetists56.7
Music Therapists56.1
Amusement and Recreation Attendants56
Slot Supervisors55.9
Teacher Assistants55.8
Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program55.7
Special Education Teachers, Middle School55.6
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists55.6
Adapted Physical Education Specialists55.2
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education55.2
Gaming Dealers55
Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses54.2
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education53.8
Fire Investigators53.8
Massage Therapists52.8
Speech-Language Pathologists52.7
Medical Secretaries52.2
Police Patrol Officers51.9
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives51.9
Transportation Attendants, Except Flight Attendants51.8
Transit and Railroad Police51.6
Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors51.3
Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers51.2
Opticians, Dispensing50.6
Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners50.5
Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming Investigators50.3
Dietetic Technicians50.3
First-Line Supervisors of Personal Service Workers50.2
Animal Control Workers50.1
Manicurists and Pedicurists49.5
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians49.3
Spa Managers48.7
Nuclear Medicine Physicians48.6
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors48.6
Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop48.4
Recreation Workers48
Police Detectives47.9
Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity47.9
Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance47.8
Police Identification and Records Officers47.7
Food Servers, Nonrestaurant47.6
Gaming Supervisors47.2
Stock Clerks, Sales Floor47.2
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers46.9
Interpreters and Translators46.8
Subway and Streetcar Operators46.7
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education46.6
Funeral Attendants46.4
Licensing Examiners and Inspectors45.9
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers45.9
Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors45.7
Forest Firefighters45.6
Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers45.6
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay45.3
Postal Service Clerks45
Criminal Investigators and Special Agents44.8
Gaming and Sports Book Writers and Runners44.3
Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria44
Gaming Cage Workers43.9
Dietitians and Nutritionists43.7
Waiters and Waitresses43.6
License Clerks43.3
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School43.1
Structural Iron and Steel Workers42.9
Food Preparation Workers42.8
Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary42.8
Low Vision Therapists, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists42.7
Receptionists and Information Clerks42.6
First-Line Supervisors of Housekeeping and Janitorial Workers42.6
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners42.4
Statement Clerks42.2
Locker Room, Coatroom, and Dressing Room Attendants41.9
Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks41.8
Gaming Change Persons and Booth Cashiers41.7
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists41.6
Child, Family, and School Social Workers41.6
Switchboard Operators, Including Answering Service41.2
Gaming Managers41.2
Adhesive Bonding Machine Operators and Tenders41.1
Couriers and Messengers41.1
Credit Checkers41
Air Traffic Controllers40.9
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors40.9
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary40.7
Office Clerks, General40.6
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners40.5
Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators40.2
Food Service Managers40.1
Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers40
Interviewers, Except Eligibility and Loan39.9
Community Health Workers39.7
Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop39.6
Clinical Research Coordinators39.5
Quality Control Systems Managers39.4
Roustabouts, Oil and Gas39.4
Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas39.2
Commercial Pilots39.2
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School39.1
Radio Operators38.9
Retail Salespersons38.7
Ship and Boat Captains38.6
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School38.5
Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians38.3
New Accounts Clerks38.3
Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers38.3
Procurement Clerks38.2
Crossing Guards38.2
Driver/Sales Workers38.1
Fire Inspectors38
Costume Attendants38
Loan Interviewers and Clerks37.7
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary37.6
First-Line Supervisors of Transportation and Material-Moving Machine and Vehicle Operators37.5
Elevator Installers and Repairers37.4
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors37.3
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education37.3
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers37.3
Cooks, Restaurant37.3
Tire Repairers and Changers37.2
Brokerage Clerks37.2
Rough Carpenters37.2
Dispatchers, Except Police, Fire, and Ambulance37.1
Chefs and Head Cooks37
Transportation Vehicle, Equipment and Systems Inspectors, Except Aviation37
Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators37
Real Estate Sales Agents36.9
Pile-Driver Operators36.9
Counter and Rental Clerks36.8
Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food36.8
Parking Lot Attendants36.8
Mental Health Counselors36.6
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive36.5
Radio, Cellular, and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers36.5
Manufactured Building and Mobile Home Installers36.5
Postmasters and Mail Superintendents36.3
Construction Laborers36.3
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers36.2
Control and Valve Installers and Repairers, Except Mechanical Door36.1
Broadcast News Analysts36.1
Roof Bolters, Mining35.8
Musicians, Instrumental35.8
Library Assistants, Clerical35.8
Coaches and Scouts35.8
Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers35.4
Cooks, Short Order35.4
First-Line Supervisors of Helpers, Laborers, and Material Movers, Hand35.3
Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs35.2
Fish and Game Wardens35.2
Helpers--Extraction Workers35.1
General and Operations Managers35.1
Forest Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors35.1
Recreation and Fitness Studies Teachers, Postsecondary34.8
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators34.8
Maintenance and Repair Workers, General34.7
Wholesale and Retail Buyers, Except Farm Products34.6
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers34.6
Marriage and Family Therapists34.5
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes34.5
Self-Enrichment Education Teachers34.4
Funeral Service Managers34.3
Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers34.3
Cytogenetic Technologists34.3
Health Educators34.2
Copy Writers34.2
Civil Engineering Technicians34.2
Highway Maintenance Workers34.1
Insurance Appraisers, Auto Damage34
Eligibility Interviewers, Government Programs33.9
Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining33.9
Packers and Packagers, Hand33.9
Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers33.8
Hotel, Motel, and Resort Desk Clerks33.7
Retail Loss Prevention Specialists33.7
Ship Engineers33.6
Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers33.5
First-Line Supervisors of Animal Husbandry and Animal Care Workers33.5
Art Therapists33.5
Demonstrators and Product Promoters33.5
Human Resources Assistants, Except Payroll and Timekeeping33.5
Chief Executives33.4
Motorboat Operators33.2
Instructional Coordinators33.2
Directors- Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio33.2
Parts Salespersons33.1
Rehabilitation Counselors33.1
Sailors and Marine Oilers32.9
Bill and Account Collectors32.9
Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary32.9
Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators32.9
Securities and Commodities Traders32.8
Transportation Managers32.7
Tank Car, Truck, and Ship Loaders32.5
Forest and Conservation Workers32.5
Home Appliance Repairers32.5
Sales Agents, Financial Services32.4
Farm Labor Contractors32.3
Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors32.3
Vocational Education Teachers, Postsecondary32.3
Commercial Divers32.2
Fishers and Related Fishing Workers32.1
Loss Prevention Managers32
Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers32
Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents31.9
Gem and Diamond Workers31.9
Construction Carpenters31.8
First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers31.8
Government Property Inspectors and Investigators31.7
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders31.7
Refractory Materials Repairers, Except Brickmasons31.7
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers31.6
Mechanical Engineering Technologists31.4
Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School31.3
Program Directors31.3
Signal and Track Switch Repairers31.3
Wind Turbine Service Technicians31.2
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors31.2
Technical Directors/Managers31.2
Real Estate Brokers31.2
Fashion Designers31.2
Computer User Support Specialists31.1
Mechanical Engineers31.1
Dental Laboratory Technicians31.1
Helpers--Painters, Paperhangers, Plasterers, and Stucco Masons31.1
Forensic Science Technicians31.1
Baggage Porters and Bellhops31
Preventive Medicine Physicians31
Billing, Cost, and Rate Clerks30.9
Tour Guides and Escorts30.8
Directors, Religious Activities and Education30.8
Solar Energy Installation Managers30.8
Floral Designers30.8
First-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers30.8
Order Clerks30.7
Court Clerks30.6
Marking Clerks30.6
Customer Service Representatives30.6
First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers30.6
Mine Cutting and Channeling Machine Operators30.6
Sales Managers30.4
Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals30.4
Cargo and Freight Agents30.3
Agricultural Inspectors30.2
Music Directors30.2
Credit Authorizers30.1
Lodging Managers30.1
Pilots, Ship30.1
Sheet Metal Workers30
Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal Service29.8
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators29.8
First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers29.8
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates29.8
Buyers and Purchasing Agents, Farm Products29.7
Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers29.7
Airfield Operations Specialists29.6
Computer Network Support Specialists29.6
Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators29.5
First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers29.4
Model Makers, Metal and Plastic29.4
Emergency Management Directors29.4
Clinical Psychologists29.4
Mechanical Engineering Technicians29.4
Medical Appliance Technicians29.2
Floor Layers, Except Carpet, Wood, and Hard Tiles29.1
Social and Community Service Managers29
Freight Forwarders28.9
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers28.9
Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture28.9
Neuropsychologists and Clinical Neuropsychologists28.8
Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters28.8
Electric Motor, Power Tool, and Related Repairers28.7
Merchandise Displayers and Window Trimmers28.7
Molding and Casting Workers28.7
Locksmiths and Safe Repairers28.6
Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas28.5
First-Line Supervisors of Landscaping, Lawn Service, and Groundskeeping Workers28.5
Pump Operators, Except Wellhead Pumpers28.4
Computer Operators28.3
Wind Energy Operations Managers28.3
Word Processors and Typists28.2
Fitness and Wellness Coordinators28.1
Petroleum Pump System Operators, Refinery Operators, and Gaugers28
Freight and Cargo Inspectors28
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products27.9
Food Batchmakers27.9
Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants27.8
Loan Counselors27.8
Loan Officers27.8
Radio and Television Announcers27.6
Animal Trainers27.6
Residential Advisors27.6
Locomotive Engineers27.5
Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary27.5
Model Makers, Wood27.5
Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists27.5
Advertising Sales Agents27.4
Quality Control Analysts27.3
Engine and Other Machine Assemblers27.3
Credit Counselors27.3
Talent Directors27.2
Automotive and Watercraft Service Attendants27.2
Recycling Coordinators27.1
Chemical Equipment Operators and Tenders26.9
Data Entry Keyers26.9
Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers26.9
Human Resources Specialists26.8
Crane and Tower Operators26.8
Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians26.8
Labor Relations Specialists26.7
Municipal Clerks26.6
Industrial Production Managers26.6
Pipe Fitters and Steamfitters26.5
Rolling Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic26.5
Radio Mechanics26.5
Furnace, Kiln, Oven, Drier, and Kettle Operators and Tenders26.5
Weighers, Measurers, Checkers, and Samplers, Recordkeeping26.5
Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters26.4
Home Economics Teachers, Postsecondary26.4
Order Fillers, Wholesale and Retail Sales26.4
Solar Sales Representatives and Assessors26.4
Counseling Psychologists26.3
Gas Compressor and Gas Pumping Station Operators26.3
Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers26.2
Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers26.2
First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers26.2
Paralegals and Legal Assistants26.1
Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers, Transportation Equipment26.1
Biological Technicians26
Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary26
Continuous Mining Machine Operators26
Range Managers26
Training and Development Managers26
Medical and Health Services Managers25.9
Insulation Workers, Mechanical25.9
Rail Yard Engineers, Dinkey Operators, and Hostlers25.8
Correspondence Clerks25.8
Distance Learning Coordinators25.8
Reporters and Correspondents25.8
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians25.7
Compliance Managers25.7
Production, Planning, and Expediting Clerks25.7
Insurance Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators25.6
Paper Goods Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders25.6
Industrial Machinery Mechanics25.6
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand25.5
Slaughterers and Meat Packers25.5
Foundry Mold and Coremakers25.4
Marine Architects25.4
Meter Readers, Utilities25.2
Butchers and Meat Cutters25.2
Audio and Video Equipment Technicians25.2
Outdoor Power Equipment and Other Small Engine Mechanics25.2
Environmental Engineering Technicians25.1
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists25.1
Claims Examiners, Property and Casualty Insurance25
Biofuels Processing Technicians25
Security Managers25
Customs Brokers25
Nursery and Greenhouse Managers24.9
Park Naturalists24.8
Medical Transcriptionists24.8
Shoe and Leather Workers and Repairers24.8
Segmental Pavers24.8
Biofuels Production Managers24.8
Mates- Ship, Boat, and Barge24.7
Sales Agents, Securities and Commodities24.7
Chemical Plant and System Operators24.7
Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators24.7
Biomass Plant Technicians24.6
Network and Computer Systems Administrators24.6
Tree Trimmers and Pruners24.5
Insurance Sales Agents24.5
Power Distributors and Dispatchers24.5
Door-To-Door Sales Workers, News and Street Vendors, and Related Workers24.3
Proofreaders and Copy Markers24.3
Athletes and Sports Competitors24.3
Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials24.2
Mechatronics Engineers24.1
Fence Erectors24
Maintenance Workers, Machinery24
Construction Managers24
Weatherization Installers and Technicians23.9
Patternmakers, Metal and Plastic23.9
Industrial Engineering Technicians23.9
Financial Managers, Branch or Department23.9
Security Guards23.9
Mechanical Door Repairers23.8
Biomass Power Plant Managers23.8
Advertising and Promotions Managers23.8
Film and Video Editors23.8
Travel Agents23.8
Marketing Managers23.8
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary23.8
File Clerks23.7
First-Line Supervisors of Aquacultural Workers23.6
Hydroelectric Plant Technicians23.5
Bicycle Repairers23.5
Timing Device Assemblers and Adjusters23.5
Electro-Mechanical Technicians23.4
Computer Programmers23.4
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products23.4
Recycling and Reclamation Workers23.4
Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary23.4
Pest Control Workers23.2
Forging Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic23.2
Genetic Counselors23.2
Sociology Teachers, Postsecondary23.2
Textile Winding, Twisting, and Drawing Out Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders23.1
Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers23.1
Painters, Construction and Maintenance23
Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary22.9
Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters22.9
Art Directors22.9
Brickmasons and Blockmasons22.9
Chemical Technicians22.9
Training and Development Specialists22.8
Energy Auditors22.7
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists22.7
Agricultural Technicians22.7
Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood22.7
Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners22.7
Power Plant Operators22.6
Public Address System and Other Announcers22.6
Architecture Teachers, Postsecondary22.6
Office Machine Operators, Except Computer22.6
Insurance Claims Clerks22.5
Audio-Visual and Multimedia Collections Specialists22.5
Team Assemblers22.5
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators22.4
Sales Engineers22.3
Purchasing Managers22.2
Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists22.2
Risk Management Specialists22.2
Public Relations Specialists22.2
Communications Teachers, Postsecondary22.2
Fabric and Apparel Patternmakers22.1
Energy Brokers22.1
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks22.1
First-Line Supervisors of Logging Workers22.1
Food Science Technicians22.1
Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors, and Processing Machine Operators22
Law Teachers, Postsecondary21.9
Recreational Vehicle Service Technicians21.9
Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks21.8
Avionics Technicians21.7
Graduate Teaching Assistants21.7
Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers21.7
Locomotive Firers21.7
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment21.6
Equal Opportunity Representatives and Officers21.5
Education Administrators, Postsecondary21.5
Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators21.5
Motorboat Mechanics and Service Technicians21.4
Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers21.4
Helpers--Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers21.4
Textile Bleaching and Dyeing Machine Operators and Tenders21.4
Online Merchants21.4
Extruding and Forming Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Synthetic and Glass Fibers21.3
Hunters and Trappers21.2
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators21.1
Logistics Managers21.1
Insurance Underwriters21.1
Rail Car Repairers21
Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines20.9
Nuclear Monitoring Technicians20.9
Human Resources Managers20.8
Explosives Workers, Ordnance Handling Experts, and Blasters20.8
English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary20.8
Petroleum Engineers20.8
Computer and Information Research Scientists20.8
Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment20.8
Automotive Specialty Technicians20.7
Video Game Designers20.7
Compensation and Benefits Managers20.6
Supply Chain Managers20.6
Forest and Conservation Technicians20.6
Radio Frequency Identification Device Specialists20.6
Chief Sustainability Officers20.5
Private Detectives and Investigators20.5
Administrative Services Managers20.5
Extruding, Forming, Pressing, and Compacting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders20.5
Electronic Home Entertainment Equipment Installers and Repairers20.4
Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders20.4
Telecommunications Engineering Specialists20.4
Industrial Engineers20.4
Computer and Information Systems Managers20.3
Budget Analysts20.3
Aerospace Engineers20.3
Multiple Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic20.3
Personal Financial Advisors20.2
Legal Secretaries20.2
Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators20.1
Bioinformatics Technicians20
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers20
Electromechanical Engineering Technologists20
Commercial and Industrial Designers20
Credit Analysts20
Tax Preparers20
Validation Engineers20
Occupational Health and Safety Technicians20
Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary20
Travel Guides20
Industrial Safety and Health Engineers20
Mixing and Blending Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders19.9
Library Technicians19.9
Informatics Nurse Specialists19.8
Computer Systems Analysts19.8
Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters19.7
Cost Estimators19.7
Education Teachers, Postsecondary19.6
Geothermal Technicians19.6
Farm and Home Management Advisors19.6
Solar Thermal Installers and Technicians19.6
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary19.4
Multimedia Artists and Animators19.4
Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks19.4
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products19.4
Medical Equipment Repairers19.4
Sound Engineering Technicians19.4
Financial Analysts19.3
Electromechanical Equipment Assemblers19.3
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians19.3
Food Scientists and Technologists19.2
Information Technology Project Managers19
Hydroelectric Production Managers19
Cutters and Trimmers, Hand18.9
Industrial-Organizational Psychologists18.9
Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders18.9
Geophysical Data Technicians18.9
Library Science Teachers, Postsecondary18.9
Treasurers and Controllers18.9
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health18.8
Set and Exhibit Designers18.8
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists18.8
Logging Equipment Operators18.8
Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers18.8
Court Reporters18.8
Mine Shuttle Car Operators18.7
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary18.7
Fabric Menders, Except Garment18.6
Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers18.5
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval18.5
Agricultural Equipment Operators18.5
Insurance Policy Processing Clerks18.4
Musical Instrument Repairers and Tuners18.4
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers18.3
Grinding and Polishing Workers, Hand18.3
Log Graders and Scalers18.3
Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary18.2
Logistics Engineers18.2
Geothermal Production Managers18.2
Cooks, Fast Food18.2
Heat Treating Equipment Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic18.1
Cooling and Freezing Equipment Operators and Tenders18.1
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians18.1
Storage and Distribution Managers18.1
Aviation Inspectors18.1
Hoist and Winch Operators18
Earth Drillers, Except Oil and Gas18
Electronic Equipment Installers and Repairers, Motor Vehicles18
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary17.9
Landscape Architects17.9
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators17.9
Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists17.8
Layout Workers, Metal and Plastic17.8
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians17.8
Plasterers and Stucco Masons17.8
Carpet Installers17.7
Printing Press Operators17.7
Soil and Water Conservationists17.5
Water/Wastewater Engineers17.3
Crushing, Grinding, and Polishing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders17.1
Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers17.1
Broadcast Technicians17.1
Investment Fund Managers17.1
Cleaning, Washing, and Metal Pickling Equipment Operators and Tenders17
Urban and Regional Planners17
Electronics Engineering Technicians17
Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic17
Motorcycle Mechanics17
Automotive Master Mechanics16.9
Aquacultural Managers16.7
Logistics Analysts16.7
Clinical Data Managers16.7
Manufacturing Engineers16.7
City and Regional Planning Aides16.7
Metal-Refining Furnace Operators and Tenders16.6
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary16.5
Furniture Finishers16.4
Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters16.4
Parking Enforcement Workers16.2
Cutting and Slicing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders16.1
Industrial Engineering Technologists16.1
Electrical Drafters16.1
Postal Service Mail Carriers16.1
Automotive Engineering Technicians16.1
Regulatory Affairs Managers16.1
Animal Scientists16.1
Precision Agriculture Technicians16
Coin, Vending, and Amusement Machine Servicers and Repairers16
Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Except Sawing16
Electrical Engineering Technologists16
Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products15.9
Photonics Engineers15.9
Geography Teachers, Postsecondary15.9
Interior Designers15.9
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic15.9
Electrical Engineers15.8
Technical Writers15.8
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers15.7
Helpers--Production Workers15.7
Information Security Analysts15.6
Intelligence Analysts15.6
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic15.6
Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and Wall15.6
Plating and Coating Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic15.6
Molding, Coremaking, and Casting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic15.5
Welders, Cutters, and Welder Fitters15.5
Sewing Machine Operators15.5
Pressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials15.4
Transportation Planners15.3
Construction and Building Inspectors15.3
Electronics Engineers, Except Computer15.3
Automotive Body and Related Repairers15.2
Statistical Assistants15.2
Extruding and Drawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic15.2
Business Continuity Planners15.2
Energy Engineers15.2
Robotics Technicians15.2
Transportation Engineers15.2
Machine Feeders and Offbearers15.1
Terrazzo Workers and Finishers15.1
Grinding, Lapping, Polishing, and Buffing Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic15.1
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary15
Regulatory Affairs Specialists15
Non-Destructive Testing Specialists15
Software Developers, Systems Software15
Bridge and Lock Tenders14.9
Tile and Marble Setters14.9
Forestry and Conservation Science Teachers, Postsecondary14.9
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary14.9
School Psychologists14.8
Software Quality Assurance Engineers and Testers14.8
Environmental Engineers14.8
Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians14.8
Biofuels/Biodiesel Technology and Product Development Managers14.7
Software Developers, Applications14.7
Brownfield Redevelopment Specialists and Site Managers14.7
Document Management Specialists14.7
Biochemical Engineers14.7
Separating, Filtering, Clarifying, Precipitating, and Still Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders14.6
Wellhead Pumpers14.6
Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers14.6
History Teachers, Postsecondary14.6
Traffic Technicians14.6
Product Safety Engineers14.6
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists14.5
Biomedical Engineers14.5
Database Administrators14.5
Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic14.4
Patternmakers, Wood14.4
Solar Photovoltaic Installers14.3
Dredge Operators14.3
Museum Technicians and Conservators14.2
Security Management Specialists14.2
Animal Breeders14.1
Management Analysts14.1
Solar Energy Systems Engineers14.1
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists14
Print Binding and Finishing Workers13.9
Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary13.9
Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary13.7
Natural Sciences Managers13.7
Computer, Automated Teller, and Office Machine Repairers13.7
Chemical Engineers13.6
Electronics Engineering Technologists13.5
Electrical Engineering Technicians13.5
Semiconductor Processors13.5
Conveyor Operators and Tenders13.5
Bioinformatics Scientists13.4
Civil Engineers13.3
Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary13.3
Tool Grinders, Filers, and Sharpeners13.3
Etchers and Engravers13.3
Remote Sensing Technicians13.3
Sustainability Specialists13.1
Climate Change Analysts13.1
Fire-Prevention and Protection Engineers13.1
Gas Plant Operators13.1
Automotive Engineers13
Manufacturing Production Technicians13
Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers13
Pourers and Casters, Metal12.9
Tire Builders12.9
Nanotechnology Engineering Technicians12.9
Graphic Designers12.8
Drilling and Boring Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic12.8
Civil Drafters12.7
Environmental Restoration Planners12.7
Food and Tobacco Roasting, Baking, and Drying Machine Operators and Tenders12.6
Glass Blowers, Molders, Benders, and Finishers12.6
Fraud Examiners, Investigators and Analysts12.5
Web Developers12.5
Database Architects12.5
Business Intelligence Analysts12.5
Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomists12.5
Survey Researchers12.5
Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers12.4
Electronic Drafters12.2
Robotics Engineers12.2
Prepress Technicians and Workers12.2
Loading Machine Operators, Underground Mining12.2
Nanotechnology Engineering Technologists12.1
Motion Picture Projectionists12.1
Stock Clerks- Stockroom, Warehouse, or Storage Yard12.1
Financial Examiners12
Solderers and Brazers11.9
Architectural and Engineering Managers11.9
Wind Energy Project Managers11.6
Textile Knitting and Weaving Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders11.6
Desktop Publishers11.3
Pesticide Handlers, Sprayers, and Applicators, Vegetation11.2
Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers11.2
Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary11.1
Cooks, Private Household11.1
Materials Engineers11.1
Farm and Ranch Managers11.1
Rock Splitters, Quarry11
Architectural Drafters11
Geographic Information Systems Technicians10.9
Stone Cutters and Carvers, Manufacturing10.9
Social Science Research Assistants10.7
Business Teachers, Postsecondary10.6
First-Line Supervisors of Agricultural Crop and Horticultural Workers10.6
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, Including Health10.6
Camera and Photographic Equipment Repairers10.6
Nursery Workers10.5
Water Resource Specialists10.3
Computer Systems Engineers/Architects10.3
Agricultural Engineers10.3
Mechanical Drafters10.2
Instructional Designers and Technologists10.1
Wind Energy Engineers10.1
Appraisers, Real Estate10
Web Administrators10
Geodetic Surveyors10
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop9.9
Nuclear Engineers9.9
Fuel Cell Engineers9.7
Nanosystems Engineers9.7
Surveying Technicians9.7
Watch Repairers9.7
Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators9.6
Milling and Planing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic9.3
Shoe Machine Operators and Tenders9.3
Manufacturing Engineering Technologists9.1
Political Scientists8.9
Floor Sanders and Finishers8.8
Search Marketing Strategists8.7
Mapping Technicians8.7
Precious Metal Workers8.4
Materials Scientists8.3
Judicial Law Clerks8.2
Craft Artists8
Potters, Manufacturing8
Environmental Compliance Inspectors7.9
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders7.7
Textile Cutting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders7.6
Sewers, Hand7.5
Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers7.4
Painters, Transportation Equipment7.3
Geospatial Information Scientists and Technologists7.2
Marine Engineers7.2
Tool and Die Makers7.2
Industrial Ecologists6.9
Microsystems Engineers6.1
Music Composers and Arrangers6.1
Computer Hardware Engineers6.1
Biochemists and Biophysicists6.1
Remote Sensing Scientists and Technologists6
Environmental Economists6
Molecular and Cellular Biologists5.8
Atmospheric and Space Scientists5
Soil and Plant Scientists4.9
Poets, Lyricists and Creative Writers4.9
Computer Network Architects4.8
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers4.2
Operations Research Analysts3.5
Geological Sample Test Technicians3.3
Financial Quantitative Analysts2.9
Data Warehousing Specialists2.9
Photonics Technicians2.7

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Mapped: Each Region’s Median Age Since 1950

The world’s population is aging, but not at the same rate. This animated map visualizes the changes in median age in every region since 1950.



median age by region

Mapped: Each Region’s Median Age Since 1950

Over the last 70 years, the global population has gotten older. Since 1950, the worldwide median age has gone from 25 years to 33 years.

Yet, despite an overall increase globally, not all regions have aged at the same rate. For instance, Europe’s median age has grown by 14 years, while Africa’s has only increased by 1 year.

Today’s animated map uses data from the UN Population Index to highlight the changes in median age over the last 70 years, and to visualize the differences between each region. We also explain why some regions skew older than others.

Factors that Affect a Region’s Median Age

Before diving into the numbers, it’s important to understand the key factors that influence a region’s median age:

  1. Fertility Rate
    The average number of children that women give birth to in their reproductive years. The higher the fertility rate, the younger a population skews. Since 1950, the global fertility rate has dropped by 50%.
  2. Mortality Rate
    The number of deaths in a particular region, usually associated with a certain demographic or period in time. For example, global child mortality (children who have died under five years of age) has been on the decline, which has contributed to an increase in the average life expectancy across the globe.
  3. Migration
    International migration may lower a region’s population since migrants are usually younger or working age. In 2019, there were 272 million migrants globally.

The Change in Median Age

As mentioned, not all regions are created equal. Here’s how much the median age has changed in each region since 1950:

The Highs

Regions that have seen the most growth and generally skew older are Latin America, followed by Europe and Asia.

Interestingly, Asia’s notable increase is largely influenced by Japan, which has the oldest population on the planet. The country has seen a significant increase in median age since 1950—it’s gone from 22 to 48 years in 2020. This can be explained by its considerably low fertility rate, which is 1.4 births per woman—that’s less than half the global average.

But why is Japan’s fertility rate so low? There are more women in the workforce than ever before, and they are too busy to take on the burden of running a household. Yet, while women are more prosperous than ever, the workforce in general has taken a hit.

Japan’s recession in the early 1990s led to an increase in temporary jobs, which has had lasting effects on the region’s workforce—in 2019, about 1 in 5 men were working contract jobs with little stability or job growth.

The Lows

In contrast to Asia’s growth, Africa has seen the lowest increase in median age. The region’s population skews young, with over 60% of its population under the age of 25.

Africa’s young population can be explained by its high birth rate of 4.4 births per woman. It also has a relatively low life expectancy, at 65 years for women and 61 years for men. To put things into perspective, the average life expectancy across the globe is 75 years for women and 70 years for men.

Another trend worth noting is Oceania’s relatively small growth. It’s interesting because the region’s fertility rate is almost on par with the global average, at 2.4 births per woman, and the average life expectancy doesn’t differ much from the norm either.

The most likely reason for Oceania’s stagnant growth in median age is its high proportion of migrants. In 2019, the country had 8.9 million international migrants, which is 21% of its overall population. In contrast, migrants only make up 10% of North America’s population.

Unique Challenges for Every Region

Age composition has significant impacts on a region’s labor force, health services, and economic productivity.

Regions with a relatively high median age face several challenges such as shrinking workforce, higher taxes, and increasing healthcare costs. On the other end of the spectrum, regions with a younger population face increased demand for educational services and a lack of employment opportunities.

As our population worldwide continues to grow and age, it’s important to bring attention to issues that impact our global community. World Population Day on July 11, 2020, was established by the UN to try and solve worldwide population issues.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the world’s blueprint for a better future for all on a healthy planet. On World Population Day, we recognize that this mission is closely interrelated with demographic trends including population growth, aging, migration, and urbanization.”

– UN Secretary-General António Guterres

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United States

Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments

This visualization tracks the last decade of the 1033 Program, which provides free military equipment to police departments around the U.S.



Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments

View the full-size version of this infographic.

In the wake of countrywide protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, questions around the militarization of police forces have taken center stage once again.

How did so many police departments across the United States end up with bomb-proof trucks and night vision goggles? Where are departments acquiring this equipment, and at what cost?

These questions and more are answered by data from the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the 1033 Program. The visualization above tracks the flow of military equipment to law enforcement over the past decade.

A note on the data: Much of the equipment acquired through the program is already used – and often obsolete by military standards. As well, the 1033 dataset captures shipments of equipment. Over time, items can be transferred between departments, meaning these official records may be less reflective of specific police department inventories as time goes on. For these reasons, we decided to cap our analysis to looking at the last decade (2010-2020) of transfers.

Free Military Surplus for Law Enforcement

The 1033 Program was conceived in the years following Operation Desert Storm, just as America’s violent crime rate was hitting an all-time high. During this era, America’s “war on drugs” and tough-on-crime political platforms provided the impetus for the militarization of police forces around the country.

The 1033 program has been likened to Craigslist’s “Free Stuff” section, and the comparison is apt. The mechanics of the program are relatively straightforward. Outdated military gear is transferred (at no cost) to state and local law enforcement agencies who go through the application process. The equipment is loaned to agencies, who are only responsible only for shipping and subsequent operating costs (e.g. fuel, spare parts).

Law enforcement agencies gain access to a vast array of military surplus, from office supplies and thermal underwear up to armored vehicles and multi-million dollar communications systems. Also included in the mix are medical supplies and gear to aid in search and rescue operations. Since the program’s inception, over $7.4 billion worth of property has been transferred.

military equipment 1033 program

One of the most popular items acquired by police departments is the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. Over the past decade, over 1,000 of these vehicles were transferred from the military to law enforcement agencies. This includes places like Monett, Missouri (population 9,000), which is on record as receiving two MRAP vehicles.

Night vision equipment is extremely popular as well. Items like goggles, scopes, and surveillance equipment – which can run thousands of dollars per unit – have been shipped to police departments around the country.

Of course, military surplus isn’t just about fancy vehicles and weaponry. The Meade County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky is on record for ordering a single box of toilet paper just as COVID-19 was on the rise in that state.

Shipments at the State Level

Since the army is willing to part with excess equipment, cash-strapped police departments are happy to oblige. More than $1.7 billion of surplus has been transferred over to police around the country over the past decade.

The two biggest spenders, California and Texas, combined to acquire a total of $271 million in equipment, but looking at things on a per capita basis helps to show the states that were most enthusiastic about the 1033 Program in more relative terms.

StateValue of equipment (2010-2020)Value of equipment per capita
South Carolina$74,315,198$14.43
North Carolina$48,778,465$4.65
New Jersey$45,730,823$5.15
New York$33,808,332$1.74
New Mexico$20,892,590$9.96
West Virginia$14,019,400$7.82
North Dakota$11,249,990$14.76
South Dakota$6,662,921$7.53
New Hampshire$4,389,536$3.23
Rhode Island$1,768,124$1.67

Tennessee had by far the highest spending considering its population, with police departments in the state acquiring $20 worth of equipment per person. With the exception of Arizona, all the states that rank highly in that metric have per capita police spending that sits well below the U.S. average.

On the flip side, New York came in at a fraction of that amount, acquiring only $1.74 worth of equipment for every person in the state. Of course, it’s worth noting that New York had the highest police expenditure in the country (after Washington DC).

Who got the Goods?

Not surprisingly, state-level law enforcement agencies topped the list. For example, the Arizona Department of Public Safety received multiple airplanes valued at $17 million per unit. California’s highway patrol received the most expensive single item on the list – a $22 million aircraft.

For a more local perspective, here’s a look at the top 20 police departments by value of military equipment acquired:

Law Enforcement Agency (Exc. state)StateValue of Equipment Acquired
Houston Police DepartmentTX$11,682,951
Las Vegas Metro Police DepartmentNV$8,995,931
Washington County Sheriff's OfficeTN$7,501,075
Columbus Division of PoliceOH$6,885,949
Ventura County Sheriff's OfficeCA$6,605,678
Columbus County Sheriff's OfficeNC$6,596,927
Sacramento County Sheriff's DepartmentCA$6,142,009
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's OfficeCA$5,902,198
Hocking County Sheriff's OfficeOH$5,865,008
Jackson Police DepartmentMS$5,823,634
Orange County Sheriff's DepartmentCA$5,802,758
Lawrenceburg Police DepartmentTN$5,543,166
Sherburne County Sheriff's OfficeMN$5,194,238
Kirklin Police DepartmentIN$5,014,748
Los Angeles Country Sheriff's DepartmentCA$4,840,970
King Country Sheriff's DepartmentWA$4,618,686
Pinal Country Sheriff's DepartmentAZ$4,305,849
Martin County Sheriff's OfficeFL$4,179,645
Kane County Sheriff's OfficeIL$4,006,465
Cottage Grove Police DepartmentMN$3,941,606

On its own, Houston police department received as much as the bottom five states combined. Nearly 400 other police departments also broke the $1 million barrier, and over 2,026 departments around the country received over $100,000 in goods.

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