by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
There’s an interesting map in an online article from The Charlotte Observer today. It’s a county-by-county look at population change since the last census in 2016, and it shows clearly where population is growing, and where it’s shrinking. It’s much as you would expect. There’s a lot of growth in North Carolina’s cities and their surrounding counties. Wake County (Raleigh) grew at 16.2%, while Mecklenburg (Charlotte) grew at 14.7%. The fastest growing was actually Brunswick County (Wilmington) at 18.2%. The Triad and Asheville areas also saw growth.
But lots of counties saw declines in population. Northampton County’s population fell by 9.5%, while Washington County’s dropped 7.8% and Bertie County’s by 6.7%. Overall, 49 counties saw some decline in population, while 51 saw increases.
Overall, the state saw an increase in population of 6.4% from 2010 to 2016, so some of what we’re seeing here is a migration of people from rural to urban communities. It’s all part of the rural-urban divide we hear so much about in North Carolina. The challenge for local governments in urban areas is how to deal with sometimes dramatic population growth and the strain it can put on infrastructure, schools, and local service provision. The challenge for local governments in rural areas is how to encourage the real and sustainable economic growth that will attract new residents in the long term.