The TWISler Breaks Sarasota Down

Published Feb. 11, 2011

The TWISler Breaks Sarasota Down

As you read this column, there are a half-million Egyptians gathered in Downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a rebellion of peaceful protest — a right our constitution has led most of us to take for granted.

Their revolution was primarily organized by young people using social media to rally the nation. They have pledged their lives in their fight for freedom — a luxury most of them have never known.

The TWISler is gonna have some fun with facts today, folks — a little illumination through enumeration. Because we all know stats and demographics are the only true measure of a town. The outcome of those stats may not always deliver the most desirable results, but running the numbers at least helps to make some sense of it all. Hopefully, if we can come to grips with what our little piece of paradise is really made of, we can start to change some of our crazy ways.

Now, the new 2010 census numbers don’t come out until March, but we felt it was important to give our fellow SRQites a little insight into who we are, how we live, what we do and why in the Sam Hell we do it. So, like something out of your digit-crunching dreams, the TWISler has scoured the Internet on a quest to hunt down and harvest the most accurate information a string Google searches can bestow. Admittedly, these numbers may not exactly match current levels to the tenth decimal place (Hey, give a TWISler a break!), but they should be close enough for comfort.

We all know Sarasota’s retirement home reputation good and well, but a gander at our population’s age distribution revels just how ancient our citizenry actually is. According to the American Community Survey’s estimation, Sarasota County has a population of roughly 368,000, about 48% boys and 52% girls. This handy chart provided by the ACS breaks our youth deficiency down in detail:

Total population

367,446

Percent

Under 5 years

15,906

4.3%

5 to 9 years

15,417

4.2%

10 to 14 years

17,881

4.9%

15 to 19 years

17,859

4.9%

20 to 24 years

15,770

4.3%

25 to 34 years

31,662

8.6%

35 to 44 years

40,872

11.1%

45 to 54 years

49,838

13.6%

55 to 59 years

25,886

7.0%

60 to 64 years

27,422

7.5%

65 to 74 years

48,691

13.3%

75 to 84 years

43,712

11.9%

85 years and over

16,530

4.5%

With a bit of arithmetic, some interesting observations can be made. If you’ll notice, there are more people in the two-decade lifespan between ages 65 and 85 (92,403) than there are in the quarter-century of life between ages 20 and 45 (88,304). You’ll also find there are more seniors age 85 and older than there are children age 5 and younger. The two largest portions of Sarasota’s people pie consist of age groups 35 to 55 and 65 to 85. For some reason, there’s a sharp drop in the 55 to 65ers, which we assume is due to the different migrations of retirees. Hey, some folks gotta work until AARP hits the doorstep, others get the job done before their first midlife crisis hits. The bottom line is, geezers age 65 and up account for roughly a third of all Sarasotans. Break out your zuit suits and join the party, kids!

Zillow.com estimates the current population within the Sarasota city limits to be 54,879, with a median age of 41. That’s a slippery shower fall from the countywide median age of 51, but both stats look awfully decrepit up against the national average of 36. Oddly, Zillow’s age distribution graph also shows a crystal clear drop in the city’s population between ages 55 and 65.

The 2000 census even shows a nearly identical split between testosterone and estrogen. Like city, like county, I guess. Similarities aside, the 2000 numbers present a stark difference in age distribution among city dwellers, with almost twice as many 20 to 45ers (18,204) as there are 65 to 85ers (9,548). How much that data has shifted in a decade, we’re not real sure. But here’s the city’s census chart from 2000:

Total population

52,715

Percent

Under 5 years

2,811

5.3

5 to 9 years

2,766

5.2

10 to 14 years

2,607

4.9

15 to 19 years

2,898

5.5

20 to 24 years

3,478

6.6

25 to 34 years

7,055

13.4

35 to 44 years

7,671

14.6

45 to 54 years

6,767

12.8

55 to 59 years

2,717

5.2

60 to 64 years

2,360

4.5

65 to 74 years

5,046

9.6

75 to 84 years

4,502

8.5

85 years and over

2,037

3.9

As you can see, the 25 to 55ers rule the roost within the city limits. But don’t get too excited, my little ones. A quarter of city residents are still over six decades old. Overall, the most important thing to take from these demographics is that there is a profound generational divide in this town. And the conflicting ideas and lifestyles between these groups is something that’s more frequently beginning to play out in real time.

The U.S. census also draws a few other tantalizing tidbits of knowledge out of the closet — like how many of us bat for the same team. The Gay Index is a census study that measures the flamboyance factor of American cities. As of 2000, we were falling somewhere between Elton John and Richard Simmons on the national gaydar meter. The index scores populations on the proportion of same-sex partnerships they report, with a score of 100 being the national average. It turns out Sarasota has a whole lotta pride after all, scoring a beefy 97 on the lesbian chart and a flaming hot 223 in the men’s department. That gives Sarasota a combined gay rate of 161 — that’s 61% more fabulous than the national average. I guess Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime Avenues aren’t the only fruity things in town.

It makes you wonder if a lot of our local conservative commentators and small-minded small-town retirees realize that little fact nugget when they rant and rave across the blogosphere about the menace of homosexuality. Well, guess what snowbirds? Not only do you live in the big city now, but you live in one of Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Cities — whether you like it or not.

Between our large gay population and the fact that we are basically a depository for empty nesters, their ain’t a whole lot of ankle biters running around these parts. In fact, as Zillow points out in the graphs below, almost half of our population is married, but only 18% of Sarasota homes have a little mini-me running around makin’ messes.

That might be one reason we don’t bother to spend as much on public education ($5,549 per student) as the average U.S. city does ($5,678 per student). We all did our schoolin’ a long time ago. Those little brats can just fend for themselves. Then again, judging by the rest of the country’s support for students, maybe we could afford to spend a little more moolah on education, instead of contemplating huge cuts in our pubic school arts programs. I mean, seeing how the arts is our most prized possession and all — and the biggest thing setting us apart from every other beach town in Florida.

But we’re right on par with the rest of the Sunshine State when it comes to everybody’s favorite statistic: the good ol’ unemployment rate. We’re currently riding high with 11.6% of our citizens out of work, going above and beyond the U.S. average of 10.2%. Hey, no problem there, though. We love homeless people in this city! And it should be fine anyway, since our cost of living is 3.4% lower than the U.S. average. Oh yeah, baby. It’s like summertime, and the livin’s easy. Who needs a job with a city this cheap, right?

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