Background 

When will Wake County’s millionth resident arrive?

In 2014, the Wake County Board of Commissioners asked Carolina Demography to estimate when their population would surpass one million residents. In addition, they asked us to contextualize the estimated characteristics of their millionth resident in a broader discussion of past trends, current demographic characteristics, and a look to the future of Wake County.

Some backstory:

In 1910, Wake County’s population was 63,229. Although Wake County has grown steadily since then, it did not reach 100,000 residents until 1940. Over half a century later, in 1994, Wake’s population surpassed half a million.

The establishment of Research Triangle Park in Wake County and neighboring Durham County in 1959 catalyzed new growth in Wake County. Wake grew from the fourth most populous county in the state in 1960 to the second most populous in 1990.

As of July 1, 2013, Wake County had a population of 974,289, the 46th largest county population in the country. Wake County’s population grew by an estimated 73,271 persons since 2010, a growth rate of 2.6% annually.

At some point in 2014, the one millionth resident would officially arrive in Wake County.

We were asked to figure out what day this person would arrive — and provide additional information about new people moving into Wake County.

Approach

We started off with some questions:

  • What day is the millionth resident in Wake arriving?
  • Who are all these new people coming to Wake County?
  • What do these new arrivals mean for the community as it grows and changes?

To estimate the date, we compared the 2010 Census population figure for Wake with the 2013 population estimate for the county, which the federal
government calculates using various data about migration patterns and births and deaths.

We then calculated the average growth per day for Wake County and determined the exact date of arrival of the millionth resident: April 22, 2014.

Other data sources informed our written report summarizing overall trends, and a longer, in-depth white paper that contextualized the millionth resident in a broader discussion of past trends.

Results

The resulting report received wide media coverage, with pieces in the Associated Press and the News and Observer (Raleigh), and coverage on WNCN-TV, WRAL-TV, WTVG-TV, and Warner Cable News Online. Wake County also received several awards, including a NACIO award from the National Association for County Information Officers, for its communication around this data.

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