What will your city be like in 15 years?

We know that Raleigh and Charlotte are among the fastest growing urban areas in the nation, while many rural areas of the state are facing population losses and stagnation. But if we know anything about the future with certainty, it’s that the future is inherently uncertain! How likely are these patterns? A new interactive tool from the Urban Institute uses historical trends and census data to map population projections for every state and metro area in the United States through 2030. Users can toggle assumptions about key demographic factors—births, deaths, and migration—to see how this might impact their area.

Projected Percent Change by Race/Ethnicity, 2010-2030, Urban InstituteRacial Ethnic Change 2010_2030

What does this tool tell us about North Carolina in 2030? Here are three main takeaways:

  • Charlotte and the Triangle are projected to grow even under the lowest growth conditions. Even under assumptions of low birth rates, high mortality rates, and low migration, the Charlotte area’s population is projected to grow by 21% between 2010 and 2030. The greater Triangle region is projected to grow by 24% over the same time period.
  • Certain areas in the western and eastern regions of the state will have population losses in all scenarios except for the highest growth conditions. Only three regions—Roanoke Rapids, Henderson, and the portion of North Carolina within the Galax, VA commuting area – are projected to lose population under average assumptions about births, deaths, and migration. These areas would experience slight population growth through 2030 if either birth rates increase by 20% or mortality declines, but these may be unlikely to occur.
  • Most other areas of the state will see low to moderate growth under the majority of scenarios one can examine. Outside of Charlotte and the Triangle, the fastest growing areas will be in the mountains or the coast, reflecting the appeal of these areas as potential retirement destinations.

Across the state, the continued impact of population aging and rising diversity will be felt through 2030, regardless of the assumptions underlying the projections. And, as the authors of the study point out, it is important to keep in mind that demography is not destiny. Local actions and policies can and will shape the demographic landscape of the state.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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