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Holly Springs Chatter

A Demographer's View: How Will North Carolina’s Population Change in the Next 20 Years?

I’m a demographic analyst at Carolina Demography, an applied demography group located within the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how North Carolina’s population is changing and what that means in terms of housing, education, transportation, and our state’s economy.

In other words, I’m constantly projecting how population changes will affect our state’s future. But before we get into predictions about North Carolina in 2040, it’s important to talk about the last few decades, when North Carolina’s population shifted rapidly—but unevenly. 

First, let’s talk about how our state has grown.

Every year since 1970, we’ve grown faster than the nation—and projections indicate we’ll add roughly a million new residents every decade for the next twenty to thirty years. But this growth has been highly uneven across the state. In fact, just three counties accounted for more than half of North Carolina’s growth from 2010 to 2015: Wake, Mecklenburg, and Durham. Meanwhile, nearly half of North Carolina’s one hundred counties have declined in population since 2010. 

What accounts for this imbalanced growth? Largely, people moving here from other places. 

Since 2015, North Carolina has averaged more than 110,000 new residents each year. Most of this growth is from net migration, meaning more people are moving to our state than are moving away. And those new residents tend to be more highly educated and live in more urban areas. Since 2010, two-thirds of Wake’s growth has come from net migration, meaning about forty-two more people move into Wake County each day than move out. Charlotte and its suburbs have seen similar growth. 

Full Indy story here.

About the author: Jess Stanford is a research analyst at Carolina Demography, an applied demography group within the Carolina Population Center at UNC that provides people with the data and analysis they need to make sense of population-level changes across the state.

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