2018 marks third straight year of 100K+ population gains for NC

North Carolina’s population grew to an estimated 10.4 million people as of July 1, 2018, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

From July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, the state’s population increased by nearly 113,000 individuals. This marks the third consecutive year that the state population has grown by more than 100,000 in a single year. Among the states, North Carolina had the 5th largest numeric increase since 2017. Only Texas (379K), Florida (323K), California (158K), and Arizona (123K) gained more residents over the past year.

With a growth rate of 1.1% since 2017, North Carolina continues to grow faster than the national average (0.6%) and was the 10th fastest-growing state. The top five fastest-growing states in the last year were:

  • Nevada: 2.1%
  • Idaho: 2.1%
  • Utah: 1.9%
  • Arizona: 1.7%
  • Florida: 1.5%

While North Carolina has maintained steady growth since 2010, population losses are increasingly common across the nation. There were nine states with estimated population losses between 2017 and 2018. New York (-48.5K) and Illinois (-45.1K) had the largest estimated losses, followed by West Virginia (-11.2K), Louisiana (-10.8K), and Hawaii (-3.7K). West Virginia lost the largest percentage of its population (-0.6%), followed by Illinois (-0.4%) and Alaska (-0.4%).

Migration is the engine of state growth

Since 2010, North Carolina’s population has grown by nearly 850,000 residents, an increase of 8.9%. Two-thirds of this growth was due to net in-migration. The share of state growth from net migration is increasing as growth from natural increase (births minus deaths) steadily declines due to lower fertility and more deaths from population aging.

In the most recent year, North Carolina received an estimated 87,000 net in-migrants (77% of total population growth). This was the fourth largest net in-migration of any state; only Florida (309K), Texas (188K), and Arizona (98K) had more growth from net migration last year.

Most of these in-migrants were domestic migrants (67K), meaning that they moved to North Carolina from other states. According to detailed data in the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS), North Carolina had the largest net in-migration from New York, New Jersey, and California, with net gains of over 10,000 residents from each state.

The state receives relatively fewer international migrants (this includes immigrants and citizens returning to the U.S. from abroad, such as returning military personnel). From 2017-18, North Carolina received an estimated 20,000 net in-migrants from other countries. The largest in-flows were from India, China, and Mexico, according to the 2017 ACS.

North Carolina on track to surpass 10.6 million by 2020

These new estimates are consistent with the latest population projections from the State Demographer that project that North Carolina will have more than 10.6 million residents by 2020.

Projections based on current estimates are consistent with the Congressional reapportionment shifts predicted last year. North Carolina remains on track to pick up a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, provided current population trends continue.

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Median household income key predictor of internet access

Yesterday’s post provided topline statistics about internet access in North Carolina. For many readers, this post raised more questions than it answered. Specifically, one reader wanted to know how many individuals had internet access only through their cell phones. Others had more specific questions about the relationship between income, geography, and access. These questions are addressable with the data and are the focus of this post.

How many of the people with internet access are using cell phones only?

Accessing the internet on a cell phone only is a fundamentally more limited form of engagement with the internet than individuals who are accessing the internet on a desktop or laptop computer. According to the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey (ACS), 85.5% of households had one or more types of computing devices:

  • 4% had a smartphone only
  • 7% had a tablet only

These estimates are likely to increase in coming years due to survey changes that better capture the use of these devices.*

Statewide, 76.4% of households had an internet subscription according to the (75.8% with broadband and 0.6% with dial-up). However, one in ten broadband users—7.5% of all households—reported having a “cellular data plan only with no other type of internet subscription.” The counties with the highest rates of cell-only internet access were:

  • Greene (22.3%)
  • Lenoir (18.4%)
  • Caswell (13.7%)
  • Jones (12.6%)
  • Perquimans (12.2%)

The counties with the largest numbers of cell-only households were:

  • Mecklenburg (29,900)
  • Wake (17,700)
  • Guilford (13,300)
  • Forsyth (12,000)
  • Durham (10,600)

What is the relationship between income and internet access?

Nationwide analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau found that, across rural and urban categories, counties with lower median household incomes (<$50,000) had household internet subscription rates ten percentage points lower than counties with median household incomes of $50,000 or more. Yesterday’s post highlighted differential rates of internet access across North Carolina’s 100 counties and by race and ethnicity but did not discuss the key factor of income.

The interactive graphic below highlights the relationship between county median household income and the share of county households with any broadband subscription. Median income ranges from just under $31,300 in Bertie to more than $73,500 in Wake. Broadband subscription rates range from 44.9 % in Swain to 88.3% in Wake. The shading of each dot reflects the share of county population identifying as American Indian, Black, or Hispanic. This proportion ranges from 3.3% in Madison to 71.9% in Robeson.

There is a strong relationship between median income and internet adoption. For every additional $1,000 in median income, the county’s broadband subscription rate increases by 0.9 percentage points.** With this new data and future releases, researchers will be better able to explore whether this is due primarily to a lack of sufficient infrastructure or more driven by individual characteristics such as age and income.

*The 2017 5-Year ACS data span 2013-2017 and include years of data collected prior to the survey changes. They are used here because they are the only source that provides estimates for all 100 counties in the state. The 2017 1-Year ACS data available at the state level found higher rates of smartphone only (8.7%) and tablet only households (1.0%), due to higher overall rates of device reporting (89.4% of households reported any computing device). In addition, nearly one in nine households (10.8%) reported having a cellular data plan only with no other type of internet subscription.

**Based on linear regression.

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NC in Focus: Internet Access

Nationally, 78% of all households subscribe to the internet. This rate is two percentage points lower in North Carolina—76%—reflecting generally lower internet access rates among households in rural and lower-income counties. These data come from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey (ACS) estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the first data to provide estimates of computer and internet use for all communities.

Across North Carolina’s 100 counties, internet access varies widely. In twelve counties, 80% or more of county households subscribe to the internet. These counties include the core counties of the Triangle and Charlotte metropolitan areas, as well as six coastal counties. Eighty-eight percent of Wake County households have internet access, the highest rate statewide, followed by Union and Orange counties (both at 87%).

In contrast, the internet subscription rate among households in Swain, the county with the lowest rate, is just over half that of Wake: 46% of Swain County households subscribe to the internet. Graham (50%) and Robeson (51%) counties have the next lowest rates of household internet access.

While 76% of NC households have internet access, 80% of North Carolina residents live in a household with internet. Asian residents are the most likely to live in a household with a broadband internet subscription (91%), followed by White (84%), Hispanic (73%), Black (71%), and American Indian (60%) residents.

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NC in Focus: Sweet Potato Production, 2018

Agriculture and agribusiness – i.e. food, fiber, and forestry – contributed nearly 17 percent (over $87 billion) to North Carolina’s total economic output in 2016, and employed 730,000 of North Carolina’s workers, according to a recent report from NC State. North Carolina is particularly known for two agricultural exports that will surely appear on many tables this Thanksgiving – turkey and sweet potatoes.


North Carolina’s rank in sweet potato production among all 50 states, according to 2017 data from the USDA Agricultural Statistics Service. It has maintained this ranking for the last 18 years.

2 Billion

Pounds of sweet potatoes that North Carolina produced in 2017, exceeding all other states combined.

Since 2014, North Carolina has annually broken its record for pounds produced, and this past year was no exception! It remains to be seen whether the 2018 harvest will continue this trend, however, as the impacts of Hurricane Florence and tropical storm Michael are still being measured.


North Carolina’s share of national sweet potato production.  North Carolina has accounted for over half of the nation’s total sweet potatoes since 2014.

$347 Million

Value of the 2017 sweet potato harvest. Sweet potatoes were the fourth most valuable crop in North Carolina, behind tobacco ($724 million), soybeans ($639 million), and corn ($501 million).


Counties that collectively produced over 40% of the 2017 sweet potato harvest:

  • Wilson (246 million pounds)
  • Nash (217 million pounds)
  • Johnston (212 million pounds)
  • Edgecombe (180 million pounds)

Wilson County alone produced more sweet potatoes in 2017 than the entire state of Louisiana (219 million pounds), the fourth-highest producing state.

(Sampson County, the leading producer in 2016, chose to withhold exact figures to avoid disclosing data for individual farms.)

Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
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NC in Focus: 2017 Veteran Snapshot

Just over 656,000 veterans lived in North Carolina in 2017 according to the most recent American Community Survey estimates. This is a decrease of 10,000 veterans from 2016, a decline of 1.5 percent. Nationally, the veteran population decreased at a similar rate, declining from 18.5 million in 2016 to 18.2 million in 2017, a loss of 292,000 on veterans.

While the veteran population has been steadily declining, the total adult population continues to grow. As a result, veterans comprise a smaller share of the civilian adult population. In North Carolina, veterans now make up 8.3% of the adult population, down from 8.6% in 2016. Nationally, veterans are an even smaller share of the adult population: 7.3% in 2017 versus 7.4% in 2016.


North Carolina’s veterans are much older, on average, then the non-veteran adult population. Forty-five percent (46%) of NC veterans are 65 or older compared to just 18% of non-veteran adults. Just 10% of the state’s veterans are between the ages of 18 and 34, one-third the share of non-veterans (30%) in this age group.

Reflecting this older age structure, North Carolina veterans are more likely to have a disability than non-veterans. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of the state’s veterans reported a disability in 2017 compared to 15% of the state’s non-veterans.


Though North Carolina’s veterans are predominantly male, the female population of veterans is growing. In 2017, more than one in every ten veterans in the state (10.6%) was female, higher than the national average of 8.9%. The population of female veterans increased by over 1,000 individuals in the past year, rising from nearly 68,000 in 2016 to 69,300 in 2017.

Race & Ethnicity

The veteran population is somewhat less diverse than the state’s overall adult population, reflecting the relatively older age structure. Among North Carolina’s veterans in 2017:

  • 72% are white vs. 66% of non-veteran adults;
  • 21% are black vs. 21% of non-veterans;
  • 3.7% are Hispanic vs. 7.7% of non-veterans;
  • 1.0% are American Indian vs. 1.2% of non-veterans;
  • 0.6% are Asian vs. 3.0% of non-veterans; and
  • 1.2% are some other race or multiracial vs. 1.4% of non-veterans.

Period of Military Service

In North Carolina, like the nation, the largest share of veterans served during the Vietnam era: 35% in North Carolina and 36% nationwide. Compared to the national average, North Carolina’s veterans were more likely to report Gulf War era service (45% vs. 40% nationally) and less likely to have served during the Korean War or World War II (9% vs. 11%). A similar share of veterans reported serving during no specific military conflict (23%).

Labor Force, Income, and Poverty

Compared to their non-veteran peers, North Carolina veterans of prime working age (18-64) are less likely to be in the labor force: 73.8% of NC veterans were in the labor force compared to 75.3% of non-veterans.

This is largely driven by older veterans and the relatively older age structure of veterans overall. Among younger age groups, NC veterans were more likely to be in the labor force in 2017:

  • 80.4% of NC veterans aged 18-34 were in the labor force vs. 76.0% of non-veterans;
  • 83.1% of NC veterans aged 35-54 were in the labor force vs. 80.8% of non-veterans; and
  • 58.0% of NC veterans aged 55-64 were in the labor force vs. 62.4% of non-veterans.

Among those in the labor force, North Carolina’s veterans were less likely to be unemployed: 3.8% of veterans aged 18-64 were unemployed in 2017 compared to 5.2% of non-veterans. The difference was most pronounced among the youngest veterans, with 5.0% of veterans aged 18-34 reporting unemployment compared to 8.1% of non-veterans.

North Carolina’s veterans also had much higher median incomes than the non-veteran population. Among the population receiving income, the median veteran income in 2017 was $38,682, more than $11,600 or 43% higher than the median non-veteran income of $27,064.

Reflecting these higher incomes, North Carolina’s veterans were much less likely to be in poverty than non-veterans. Just 7.4% of the state’s veteran population had incomes below the poverty line in 2017, nearly half the rate of the state’s non-veteran adult population (13.4%).

Educational Attainment

Though non-veterans are more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (32% vs. 28% of veterans), North Carolina’s veterans are much more likely to have attended some college or received an associate degree (40% vs. 30%). In total, 68% of North Carolina veterans have some college or a postsecondary degree compared to 62% of non-veterans.

Veterans are also much more likely than non-veterans to have completed high school: just 6% of NC veterans reported having less than a high school diploma in 2017 versus 13% of non-veterans.


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