By on 12.30.22 in Carolina Demographics

Dr. Michael Cline is the state demographer for North Carolina at the Office of State Budget and Management and has given us permission to re-post his content here. Each year, he publishes population estimates and projections for North Carolina and its counties.

Our latest population projections show that North Carolina will reach 14.0 million people by 2050 – adding 3.5 million people from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2050 (a 32.7% increase). Here are brief highlights of the state level changes. We will provide a deeper dive on these and regional trends in future blog posts.

Population Growth Driven by Net Migration

As a result of an aging population and lower fertility rates than the 2000s, North Carolina’s population growth will increasingly depend on net migration for population growth because deaths will eventually exceed births. By the 2040s all of our growth will be derived from net migration if current trends continue.

North Carolina’s Future Population Will Skew Older than Today

In 2011, the first wave of the baby boom generation turned 65. Since that time, over 100,000 North Carolinians have turned 65 every year and this trend will continue well into the future. As a result, the older adult population will grow at double the rate of the population as a whole. By 2029, one in five North Carolinians will be at least 65 years old and by 2031 there will be more older adults than children. The median age is predicted to rise from 39 in 2021 to 42 by 2050 (compared to 35 in 2000).

Percent Population Change, 2021-205

The  65+ population will grow at twice the rate of the population overall

The childhood population will grow much slower than in the past. Between 2021 and 2050, the under 18 population is predicted to grow by about half a million from 2.3 million children in 2021 to 2.8 million children by 2050.

North Carolina’s Future Population Will be More Racially/Ethnically Diverse

In the past, most North Carolinians were non-Hispanic White. African Americans and American Indians were the second and third largest racial/ethnic groups in North Carolina. But since the 1990s, there has been rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian & Pacific Islander populations. By 2050, our latest projections show that 14% of North Carolinians will be Hispanic/Latino, 52% non-Hispanic White, and 34% all other groups. This compares to 11% Hispanic/Latino, 62% non-Hispanic White, and 28% all other groups in 2020.

About These Population Projections

These population projections use historical censuses and the latest population estimates to produce population projections assuming a continuation of historical trends into the future. The State Demographer prepares these population projections annually. You can access summary tables or the several datasets that provide population projections by sex, age, race and Hispanic origin for the state, regions, and counties.


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