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updated 11/17/2011 11:12:08 AM ET 2011-11-17T16:12:08

Americans are more likely than ever to reach age 90.

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First-ever census figures on the 90-plus population show it's nearly tripled in size since 1980, to 1.9 million.

One of the nation's fastest growing groups, the 90-plus population is projected to reach 8 million by midcentury, representing 2 percent of the U.S. population.

That's a big change from over a century ago, when fewer than 100,000 people reached age 90.

The numbers show the majority of those age 90 or older had one or more disabilities. They also were much more likely than those ages 65-89 to live in poverty.

The report also noted the unique challenges created by people living longer, including added costs to the already-strained Medicare and Social Security programs.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Americans are older, bigger, having fewer kids

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    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We continue to learn so much about ourselves from the new census. The latest stats tell us a few things. First of all, we're older. Census Bureau reports the number of Americans age 90 and older nearly tripled in the last three decades. We're also fewer. The birth rate has been dropping steadily since it peaked in '07. The decline has been linked to the economy. But the one group having more children, the birth rate among women over 40 is up to its highest level since 1967 . And we're also getting bigger. According to some new stats on weight and health, if Americans stay on the current path, 83 percent of men, 72 percent of women will be overweight or obese by the year 2020 . So there's that.

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