Population Growth May Be More Concentrated than Last Year’s Estimates Suggested

Population estimates from July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017 indicate that growth may be more concentrated around urban centers than suggested by last year’s estimates.

Many of the top 10 fastest-growing municipalities from 2015-2016 were exurbs – largely rural areas located a greater distance from a metro center. They were thought to be possibly absorbing suburban overflow. The majority of these municipalities had previously seen slim annual population growth from 2010-2015, and eight out of ten were located less than 20 miles from a large metropolitan area. These included:

  • #1: Stem in Granville County (20% growth from 2015-2016)
  • #2: Simpson in Pitt County (12%)
  • #4: Swepsonville in Alamance County (11%)
  • #10: Fletcher in Henderson County (7%)

However, this year’s estimates do not display this pattern of growth. Only Rolesville, Wendell, and Fuquay-Varina were among the top 10 fastest-growing municipalities in 2016 and in 2017; these are all immediate suburbs of Raleigh. While eight unique counties were represented in the top 10 list last year, only five are represented this year.

In total, six of the 2016-2017 fastest-growing municipalities were located in Wake County alone: Rolesville, Wendell, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Morrisville, and Apex. Clayton in Johnston County represents a seventh municipality from the Triangle metro region. Meanwhile, Jamestown (Guilford) and Mebane (Alamance) fall within the Triad metro area, and Waxhaw (Union) within the Charlotte-Concord metros.

By comparison, the state only grew by 1.1% from 2016 to 2017. Major cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem also grew by just 1-2% last year. Even the slowest-growing municipality on this top 10 list exceeded these cities’ and the state’s growth rate by more than double.

Meanwhile, the list of municipalities with the largest single-year numeric growth is comprised entirely of North Carolina’s larger municipalities – all ten of them rank among the largest cities within their respective metropolitan statistical areas.   This also distinguishes the 2017 population estimates from the 2016 estimates.

Last year, some of the municipalities with the largest numeric growth were smaller metro suburbs, such as Fuquay-Varina in Wake County or Huntersville in Mecklenburg County. The top 10 list this year features a larger assortment of municipalities with populations over 100K – seven in 2017 compared to five in 2016. This includes Winston-Salem and Greensboro, which did not rank in the top 10 in the previous year’s estimate.

Another point of interest is Apex in Wake County, which was found on both lists this year. This means that it recorded some of the largest and fastest single-year growth in the state, after failing to make either single-year list in the previous year.

Though future estimates may slightly differ from these trends, the fact remains that North Carolina’s metro areas drive the large majority of population growth in the state.

Posted in Carolina Demographics | Comments Off on Population Growth May Be More Concentrated than Last Year’s Estimates Suggested

NC’s Metropolitan Areas Central to Growth Since 2010

Topline data from the Census Bureau’s recently released 2017 municipal population estimates  shows little change from previous years’ estimates. Municipalities located near major metropolitan areas continue to grow, while North Carolina’s rural communities continue to experience population decline.

255 NC municipalities, or 46%, have experienced either population decline or zero-percent growth since 2010. Adding municipalities with stagnant growth – i.e. those that grew slower than the state growth rate of 8% – this totals over three in four municipalities in the state (77%). Just 125 municipalities are growing on par or faster than the state since 2010, many of which are located around the Charlotte, Triangle, and Wilmington metropolitan areas.

The ten municipalities with the largest percentage growth from 2010 to 2017 were ranked in the top ten in 2016, as well. More than half—6 out of 10—are in Wake County. The remaining are represented by Brunswick County (St. James and Leland), Onslow County (Holly Ridge), or Union County (Waxhaw). St. James, Leland, and Holly Ridge are located in the southeastern portion of the state – notable for its high appeal to retirees and rapid growth in this decade – while Waxhaw falls within the Charlotte metro area.

All municipalities in this list have increased by over a third or more of their 2010 population. Rolesville (Wake County), the fastest-growing municipality in the state, has officially doubled its population in less than a decade, growing by 3,853 residents or 103% since 2010. Nonetheless, the majority of these fastest-growing municipalities appear to have hit their growth peak in this decade; just three municipalities experienced their single-largest year of numeric growth in 2017 – Knightdale, Morrisville, and Leland.

The top 10 municipalities with the greatest numeric growth since 2010 also experienced no change since last year’s estimates. This list is comprised entirely of principal cities in North Carolina’s major metros, or their neighboring suburbs with populations of 40,000 inhabitants or more.  The combined numeric growth of these ten municipalities accounted for nearly half of the total state population growth (47%) from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017.

2017 was also a banner year for several of these municipalities with the largest numeric growth over the decade. From July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017, Wilmington (New Hanover), Concord (Cabarrus), and Apex (Wake) experienced their single-largest year of growth. This suggests a continuing pattern of growth around metro suburbs, and a shift towards southeastern North Carolina.

Errata Note: A previous version of this blog incorrectly listed the entry for “Apex” as “Winston-Salem”, and vice versa, in the second table (Largest Numeric Growth). All data is correct in both tables, and the two entries have been corrected.

Posted in Carolina Demographics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on NC’s Metropolitan Areas Central to Growth Since 2010

Which States Contribute the Most Domestic Migrants?

Migration is the major source of North Carolina’s population growth. What states send North Carolina the most migrants?

The Census Bureau releases annual estimates on domestic and international migration flows for residents of the United States and Puerto Rico. American Community Survey respondents provide details on their place of residence one year ago and the state in which they currently live. The top 10 highest contributing states for North Carolina’s in-migrants in 2016 were Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, New York, Georgia, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

This wide range of places raises the question: what is the main driving force behind one’s decision to relocate to a new state?

As the map below illustrates, geographic proximity unquestionably influences who moves to North Carolina: eight of the top ten states are located on the Atlantic coast. This phenomenon is consistent with one law of Ravenstein’s theory of human migration, which notes that the “majority of migrants move a short distance.” After ranking each state according to how many in-migrants it contributed in 2016, a noticeable pattern emerges. As the distance from North Carolina increases, fewer individuals from a state tend to move to North Carolina and the state’s ranking declines. Nevertheless, what might explain states like Texas or California?

Ravenstein’s theory also states that individuals who move longer distances typically relocate to areas with abundant economic opportunities. Several of North Carolina’s fastest-growing industries – banking and finance, biotech, and information technology – have played a major role in drawing outside talent to particular areas of the state. Counties within the Charlotte metro and the Research Triangle tend to have the largest percentages of non-native residents. These places may serve as a draw to individuals relocating from more distant states.

Finally, these rankings are not without inherent issues. Many of these states are smaller than North Carolina, so what may be a minor contribution to North Carolina’s population is a sizable portion of another’s. Similarly, two of our largest contributing states—California and Texas—are highly populous, meaning large numbers of migrants to North Carolina may be a relatively smaller proportion of the state’s population. North Carolina is the 11th most common destination for California movers and the 14th most common destination for Texas movers.

Posted in Carolina Demographics | Comments Off on Which States Contribute the Most Domestic Migrants?

NC in Focus: 2016 Veteran Snapshot

Just over 666,000 veterans lived in North Carolina in 2016 according to the most recent American Community Survey estimates. This is a decrease of roughly 15,000 veterans or -2.2% from 2013, the year we last profiled North Carolina’s veterans. Nationally, the veteran population decreased at an even faster rate over this time (-5.6%). The U.S. veteran population declined from 19.6 million in 2013 to 18.5 million in 2016, a loss of 1.1 million 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 8.6% of the adult population, down from 9.1% in 2013. Nationally, veterans are an even smaller share of the adult population: 7.4% in 2016 versus 8.1% in 2013.


North Carolina’s veterans are much older, on average, then the non-veteran adult population. Forty-five percent (45%) 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, less than one-third the share of non-veterans (31%) 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 2016 compared to 16% of the state’s non-veterans.


Though North Carolina’s veterans are predominantly male, the female population of veterans is growing. In 2016, one in every ten veterans (10%) in the state was female, higher than the national average of 8.6%. The population of female veterans increased from just over 63,000 individuals in 2013 to nearly 68,000 in 2016.

Race & Ethnicity

Continue reading

Posted in Carolina Demographics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on NC in Focus: 2016 Veteran Snapshot

Obstacles & Opportunities for Educational Attainment in NC

This post initially appeared as part of the Hunt Institute’s My Future NC’s blog series.


Demographic changes in the composition of North Carolina’s child population will likely introduce new challenges to reaching any goal of increasing statewide educational attainment. In Fall 2017, 44 percent or 674,000 North Carolina public school enrollments were black, Hispanic, or American Indian students. Over the past 5 years, this group of students has grown twice as fast as the overall student population and is projected to continue to grow steadily for the next 5-10 years.

Compared to the state average, North Carolina’s American Indian, black, and Hispanic students are:

  • Less likely to report plans to continue their education after high school. 

    Eighty-four percent of North Carolina public high school graduates reported plans to continue their education at either a four-year, two-year, or trade school in 2015. While most Hispanic (77%), American Indian (80%), and black (81%) students also report postsecondary plans, they are more likely than their white and Asian peers to report plans to enlist in the military or start employment instead.

  • Less likely to enroll at UNC or an NC Community College. 

    Forty-two percent of North Carolina’s young adults (18-24) without a college degree* were enrolled in the UNC or NC Community College System in 2015. Enrollment rates for the state’s black and Hispanic populations were much lower at 33 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

  • Less likely to have completed a college degree (AA+). 

    Statewide, 14 percent of all young adults age 18-24 reported holding an associate degree or higher in 2015. American Indian (4%), black (7%), and Hispanic (7%) young adults reported degree completion rates far below the state average.

  • More likely to be first-generation college students. 

    Most Hispanic children—89 percent in 2015— live in a household where no parent or guardian has completed a college degree (AA+). Two-thirds of the state’s black children (64%) and 60 percent of American Indian children would also be first-generation college students. Asian (36%) and white (37%) children are significantly less likely to live in a household where no adult has a college degree.

Programs that reach, engage, and successfully enroll, retain, and graduate our state’s growing population of first-generation and minority students will be vital to ensure North Carolina’s progress towards any statewide attainment goal. Failure to improve these outcomes is not only detrimental to the future economic well-being of these children and their families: it will ensure that our state’s primary path to future attainment growth will be the continued reliance on in-migration of highly educated individuals from other states and countries.



*Note: The population without a college degree is defined here as just those most ready for a degree: individuals who have completed high school or a GED/equivalent. Reporting is limited to black and Hispanic populations as the American Indian population is too small to derive reliable estimates.
Data Sources: NC DPI, 2015 American Community Survey, IPEDS, UNC-GA, and NCCCS
Posted in Carolina Demographics, Education | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Obstacles & Opportunities for Educational Attainment in NC