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.

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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
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The 2020 census, citizenship, and potential impacts on NC

Note: A version of this post first appeared on the Capital Broadcasting Opinion pages. Since initial publication, North Carolina has joined 16 other states in a lawsuit attempting to block the addition of the citizenship question to the census in 2020. 


Once every 10 years, we count all individuals living in the United States in the census. In 2010, respondents were asked ten questions about basic characteristics, such as age, sex, race, and homeownership status. Last week, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that census respondents will answer one additional question in 2020: citizenship status. Introducing an additional, untested question so late in the census life cycle is concerning to demographers and social scientists, like me, who rely on the census as a key source of information about how and why our population is changing.

The concern about the newly added question is not related to its content. We have a long history of asking Americans about their citizenship status surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, including the full census (of all Americans) from 1890 to 1950. The concern is the addition of this question without the standard rigor and vetting process the Bureau typically takes for adding new census questions. Without this research, we do not understand how it will impact response rates, accuracy, and overall costs.

The census is one of the most important activities of our government. It is the foundation of our representative democracy. Every decade, the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the states based on their total population in the most recent census. The census also determines the allocation of more than half a trillion dollars of federal funds, including more than $16 billion annually to North Carolina.

Counting everyone who lives in the United States—and counting them accurately—is hard to do. One of the Census Bureau’s biggest challenges in obtaining a count of all residents is non-response. When households do not complete their census form, the Bureau sends individual enumerators door-to-door to try to obtain the required information. In 2010, it cost nearly $33 million to follow-up with the 975,000 North Carolina households that did not initially complete the federally mandated census form. Nationwide, non-response follow-up efforts cost more than $1.5 billion.

High rates of non-response also raise the risk of a net undercount. In 2010, the overall census count was highly accurate, but certain populations were undercounted, meaning they were missed in the census totals. Renters, black men, American Indians living on reservations, and Hispanics were among the groups with higher rates of undercount in 2010. But the highest rate of undercount was for young children ages 0 to 4. In North Carolina, the Bureau estimates that more than 25,000 young children were not counted in 2010, the 8th largest number of any state.

Non-response in 2020 may be even higher, for many reasons. The U.S. population is larger and harder to count than ever before. Overall response rates to statistical surveys have been declining steadily for the past few decades and Americans are increasingly distrustful of government data collection efforts. If the newly added question increases non-response among immigrant communities as some worry, this could have far-reaching impacts on North Carolina.

Nearly 800,000 immigrants were living in North Carolina in 2016, representing 8 percent of the total population, with high concentrations in both urban and rural communities. Higher non-response and a greater undercount of the immigrant population could exacerbate the undercount of children in North Carolina in 2020. Between 2000 and 2016, our state had the fourth largest numeric increase in children born to immigrant parents. Today, one in six North Carolina children—365,000—are U.S.-born citizens who live in a household with at least one immigrant parent. If these children become harder to count, the state could receive fewer funds for critical programs that help to ensure healthy growth and development for all children, such as Head Start and the School Lunch Program. At the local level, school districts may face challenges planning for the future if the 2020 data does not fully capture the population they will soon serve.

Of course, the impacts of this new question on overall response rates, accuracy, and costs could be negligible. Unfortunately, the citizenship question was officially added after the Census Bureau had already begun its 2018 End-to-End test in Providence, Rhode Island. The Bureau uses this “dress rehearsal” to identify any challenges that need to be addressed prior to the full census in 2020. Without testing properly ahead of time, we won’t know the potential consequences of this change until it may be too late to address them. When the data you are collecting influences the distribution of political power and money for the next ten years, that’s a dangerous risk to take.

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NC in Focus: Women in North Carolina

Women’s History Month has its roots in various “Women’s History Week” celebrations dating back to the late 1970s. The commemoration was often anchored to the March 8th observance of International Women’s Day. As support for the celebration grew, Congress ultimately passed a resolution recognizing March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week”. In 1987, this event was expanded to the entire month in perpetuity. An annual Presidential Proclamation is now issued every March to recognize the achievements of women in the United States.
Here are some facts about women in North Carolina:

5.2 million

The total female population in North Carolina as of July 2016, or about 51% of the state population.1


The number of counties, out of 100, where women outnumber men in North Carolina. Statewide, the sex ratio of males to females is about 95 men for every 100 women. In the United States, this ratio was 97 men to 100 women.

Edgecombe County features the lowest sex ratio with just 86 men for every 100 women. At the other end, Hyde County has the highest sex ratio with approximately 124 men for every 100 women.1

6.4 million

The projected female population by 2035. The female population is projected to grow by 22% from 2016 to 2035, compared to 21% projected growth for men.

Because of the higher projected growth among the female population, North Carolina’s sex gap is projected to widen slightly at 94 men to 100 women.2


There are just four counties where Hispanic women outnumber Hispanic men: Cherokee, Currituck, Pasquotank, and Tyrrell.1

For all other racial and ethnic subgroups, women outnumber men in most North Carolina counties:

  • white women outnumber white men in 85 counties;
  • Asian women outnumber Asian men in 85 counties;
  • black women outnumber black men in 63 counties; and
  • American Indian women outnumber American Indian men in 55 counties.


The share of women aged 25 years and over who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in North Carolina, compared to 30% of men aged 25 years and over.

Women in the state are slightly less likely to have attained a BA+ than the female national average (32%). Men in North Carolina are also one percentage point below the male national average of 32%.3

2.4 million

The number of women aged 16 years and over in North Carolina’s labor force. Women made up 48% of the total pool of workers in North Carolina, one percentage point higher than their national share of 47%. 3

Top occupations for women (share of female employed population 16 years and over):3

  • Professional and Related Occupations – 27%
  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations – 18%
  • Management, Business, and Financial Operations Occupations – 14%
  • Sales and Related Occupations – 12%
  • Food Preparation and Service Related Occupations – 7%


The number of female-owned businesses with paid employees in 2015, up from 29,929 in 2014.4 From 2014 to 2015, the number of female-owned businesses in North Carolina grew by 4%, one percentage point faster than their growth nationwide (3%).

Female-owned firms represent nearly 20% of all North Carolina businesses with paid employees, on par with the national average. Collectively, these NC firms employed over 250,000 individuals in 2015.4

$5 billion+

Total sales and receipts of female-owned firms with paid employees in 2015.4

1. 2016 Census Population Estimates – U.S. Census Bureau
2. County Projections – North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management
3. 2016 1-Year American Community Survey Estimates – U.S. Census Bureau
4. 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs – U.S. Census Bureau
Information on Women’s History Month provided by the National Women’s History Project and
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Are NC county growth patterns shifting?

North Carolina’s population grew by 1.1% between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, gaining nearly 117,000 new residents over the year. New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau provide detail on how this growth and change occurred across the state. In North Carolina, these estimates indicate emerging trends that we will continue to examine in the coming months. For now, here’s what you need to know about the data.

1. New estimates suggest shift in state growth patterns.

During the first half of the decade, more than half (53%) of the state’s growth occurred in one of three counties: Wake, Mecklenburg, and Durham. While these counties continue to grow steadily, together they accounted for just 40% of statewide growth in 2016-17, thirteen percentage points less than their share of growth during 2010-15. Population growth is now occurring more broadly across the state. The 2017 estimates suggest a return to pre-recession growth patterns, with growth shifting to suburban and exurban counties more than occurred during the first half of the decade.

2. Retirement destinations and suburbs were the fastest growing counties in 2017.

Brunswick County remains the state’s fastest-growing county, growing by an estimated 3.6% or more than 4,500 residents between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017. Nearby Pender County grew nearly as rapidly (3.5%), highlighting overall strong growth in Wilmington (New Hanover) and its adjacent counties.

Brunswick, as well as Chatham and Clay counties, have strong appeal to retirees. While this older population caused them to have more deaths than births last year (negative natural increase or natural decrease), these losses were more than offset by the large gains from net in-migration.

Many of the remaining counties in the top 10 are suburban counties in the Charlotte (Cabarrus, Union) and Triangle (Johnston, Franklin) metro areas. For the first time this decade, Mecklenburg is not among the top 10 fastest growing counties and Wake is outside of the top 5.

3. 2017 was the largest single year of growth for 32 North Carolina counties.

Nearly one in three North Carolina counties had larger population increases between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017 than any year since 2010. With two exceptions—Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) and New Hanover County (Wilmington)—none of these 32 counties contained the principal city of a metropolitan area.

In many counties, the 2017 estimates mark a significant increase in growth. Alamance County, for example, gained an estimated 3,100 new residents during 2017. This was an increase of more than 1,000 over estimated growth during 2016. In Mitchell County, last year’s estimated growth was small (+4) but marked the first year of non-negative growth since 2010.

4. 34 counties lost population between 2016 and 2017.

Population decline remains a challenge for many North Carolina counties. Thirty-four counties had fewer residents in 2017 than in 2016—all of these counties have fewer residents today than they did in 2010.


Cumberland and Robeson counties had the largest numeric losses over the year: each county had an estimated loss of nearly 1,000 residents. Halifax, Lenoir, Edgecombe, and Duplin each lost an estimated 500-600 residents over 2016-17. The largest percentage declines were in Hyde (-2.1%) and Northampton (-1.5%) counties.

5. There is no clear story about the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

These estimates offered the first comprehensive look at county population since the impact of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Most of the counties with the largest population losses were significantly impacted by the storm. However, most of these counties have also had steady population losses since 2010; the 2017 estimates are generally consistent with these broader trends.

It is impossible to tell what might have happened in these counties had Hurricane Matthew not occurred. Would these counties also have benefited from the broader growth patterns observed in other parts of the state during 2017? Alternatively, it may be that the population impacts of the storm are not easily measured at the county level. The municipal estimates scheduled for release in late May will provide another opportunity to further evaluate population shifts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

Download 2017 data tables here.

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