(Bloomberg News) While suffering through another snowy winter in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, last month, Dolores Pohl said she'd sometimes wonder how nice the Florida sunshine would feel on her face. Then the 59-year-old would consider more basic needs and go back to shoveling.

Pohl and her husband are among a growing number of Pennsylvanians who have forsaken thoughts of a Sunbelt retirement because the benefits in their home state are so generous, population-trend experts say. Pennsylvania, which has the third-largest percentage of residents older than 65 in the U.S., saw its under-18 population decline in the last decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released earlier this month.

"I don't think I could ever leave Pennsylvania," said Pohl, whose husband, Jim, 66, retired as a retail clerk from the state Liquor Control Board. "We feel lucky to live in a state that provides good services for its older folks."

Pennsylvania's overall population grew 3.4% in the last 10 years to 12,702,379, according to the 2010 Census. That growth, the same as the previous decade, helped it remain the nation's sixth-largest state. Philadelphia showed its first population gain since 1950 with an increase in black, Asian and Hispanic residents making up for a loss in white population.

Still, the number of residents 17 years old or younger declined 4.5%, census figures show.

Beyond Child-Bearing

"More people have moved beyond their child-bearing years," in Pennsylvania than in some other states, said William Frey, a demographer at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. Since more of the baby-boomer generation is staying, "Pennsylvania's population will continue to" be dominated by older residents, Frey said.

That may mean budget battles ahead, as in many states struggling with shrinking revenue. Medicaid costs escalated to $5.5 billion in the current budget from about $3.1 billion in the 2000 fiscal year. Elderly Pennsylvanians account for 15% of those enrolled in the program, according to the Department of Public Welfare.

Frey also found that Hispanics account for 77% of the state's growth, and the gains are tilted toward the eastern part, including suburban Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Lancaster, Reading and Harrisburg. Most of the decline in the under-18 population occurred in western Pennsylvania.

White Population Falls

Since 2000, the non-Hispanic white population fell 2.2% to 10,094,652, and whites now account for 79.5% of the population, 2010 Census data show. Blacks were up 10.4% to 1,327,091 and now make up 10.4% of the population. Asians rose 58.6% to 346,288 and make up 2.7%. Across the state, the Hispanic population rose 82.6% to 719,660, the data show.

The U.S. population grew to 308,745,538 residents since the last census count in 2000. That's up 9.7%, compared with 13% the previous decade, figures show. The South and West gained at the Northeast's expense in the 2010 census.

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