NC in Focus: Fast-growing older population also growing more diverse

North Carolina’s population, much like the nation at large, is growing older and more diverse. The new 2016 detailed population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau provide data on the age, sex, and racial/ethnic composition of state and county populations.

In North Carolina, the 65 and older population grew from 1.2 million in 2010 to 1.6 million in 2016, an increase of 335,000 or 27%. As of 2016, 15.5% of North Carolina’s population was 65 or older, slightly higher than the national share of 15.2%, and a significant increase since 2010 when the share was 12.9%.

At the same time, the state’s population grew increasingly diverse. While the total population grew by 611,000 or 6.4% between 2010 and 2016, some groups grew at much faster rates:

  • The Asian population was the fastest-growing group in the state, growing by 36% to 293,000.
  • The population of individuals identifying as 2 or more races increased by 26% to reach a population of 187,000.
  • The Hispanic population grew by 17% to 932,000.
  • The black population grew by 7.2% to 2.2 million.
  • The American Indian population grew by 4.8% to 115,000.
  • The white population grew by 3.4% to 6.4 million.

Numerically, the largest population gains between 2010 and 2016 were for the state’s white population (212,000), followed by growth in the state’s black (146,000), Hispanic (132,000), Asian (78,000), multiracial (38,000), and American Indian (5,000) populations.

While these trends are impacting the population in distinct ways, they are also intersecting at older ages. North Carolina’s population ages 65 and older is growing, and it is rapidly growing more diverse, as Asian and Hispanic residents who moved to North Carolina in the 1990s and 2000s begin to age into this age category. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of Asian and Hispanic North Carolinians age 65 and older nearly doubled:

  • The Asian population 65+ increased by nearly 9,700, rising from 12,000 to 21,600, a growth rate of 81%.
  • The Hispanic population 65+ grew from 17,000 to just over 31,000, an increase of 14,300 or 84%.

About Rebecca Tippett

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