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Five Insights On NC From The Latest Census Release

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its latest population estimates for North Carolina. The new data covers county and metro areas from mid-2015 to mid-2016. 

Rebecca Tippett is the director of Carolina Demography at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She shared a few insights from the latest census numbers: 

  • At a state-level, we're growing faster and faster

Last year, North Carolina showed its largest single-year growth since 2010. But that growth was not felt equally throughout the state. Fifty-two counties gained residents and 48 mostly-rural counties lost population.  The Raleigh metro area ranked 14th nationally in growth among U.S. cities. Both the Triad and the Triangle had significant growth, and so did some coastal counties. "The counties that grew the fastest between 2015 and 2016 are all what we might consider either retiree destinations or suburban communities, or a little bit of both," Tippett said.


  • Wake County's not set to overtake Mecklenburg just yet

There's been a lot of attention paid to when Wake County might pass Mecklenburg county as the most populous in the state, but Tippett says she's not sure it will happen very soon. The latest estimates place Mecklenburg only eight thousand residents ahead of Wake County. Tippett says that gap has been close for decades. However, Wake County has more room to grow. "A lot of people think it's going to happen because Wake has so much more land, so much more area that remains undeveloped," Tippett said.

  • We still don't know the full impact of Hurricane Matthew

North Carolina saw significant population losses in the Sandhills and northeastern part of the state. Tippett says those losses still don't account for the impact of Hurricane Matthew. The latest estimates are for July 1, 2016, and the storm hit in late September. That means its full effects won't show up in population counts until next year. 


  • Our fastest growing county doesn't include our fastest growing cities

Brunswick County, near Wilmington, is the fastest growing county in the state and has been since 2010. But it is technically part of the Myrtle Beach metro statistical area in South Carolina. If Wilmington-metro included Brunswick County, Wilmington would be the 19th fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation in the past year. "So instead of having just Raleigh in the top 25, we'd have two," Tippett said.


  • Growth is all about migration, less about births

Well over half of North Carolina's counties had more deaths than births last year. That means what growth we've seen has come primarily from people moving here from out of the state. If it weren't for this migration, many counties would have to halve their mortality rates and double their birth rates to grow. "And that's not really realistic," Tippett said. She says this pattern is not because mortality is high or health conditions are bad, but simply because we have so many seniors. "Population age is no longer looming," Tippett said, "Population aging is here."

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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