Census 2020: Wake County solidifies status as NC’s largest county

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s official: Wake County is the most populous county in the state.

Numbers released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, from the 2020 headcount, show Wake County with 1,129,420 million people — 13,928 more than second-place Mecklenburg County.

The bureau in 2020 estimated that Wake County had overtaken Mecklenburg by just 1,405 people.

The population in Wake County grew by 25 percent during the past decade. The 2010 census counted 900,993 people living in the county.

Those numbers reflect the statewide shift from rural areas to metropolitan ones: More than half of the state’s 100 counties — 51 — lost population, even as the state’s overall total grew by more than 9 percent to 10.4 million people.

More than 1 in 5 North Carolinians live in either Wake or Mecklenburg counties. The 12 most populous counties account for more than half the state’s population of 10.4 million.

Percent Change in County Population: 2010 to 2020[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Meanwhile, three of the five counties that grew the fastest are in the CBS 17 viewing area, led by Johnston County, which grew up 27.9 percent since 2010. Durham County’s population grew by more than 21 percent.

Those numbers only figure to keep growing into the next decade, with Google and Apple announcing plans to open hubs in the area that will employ thousands in high-paying jobs.

Cumberland and Durham counties have the fifth- and sixth-largest populations in the state, with Cumberland County having 334,728 people and Durham with 324,833.

But Robeson had the largest population drop, losing nearly 18,000 residents. Three others — Duplin, Edgecombe and Columbus — all fell by at least 7,000.

At the city level, the population of Raleigh is up 15 percent during the past 10 years to 467,665 people.

But Charlotte, the state’s largest city, is growing even faster, with an increase of 16 percent to 874,579 people.

Census officials say some of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas were in the South.

More than 60 percent of the state’s population is white, with Black people (20 percent) making up the second-largest group and Hispanic or Latino people (11 percent) the third. White people are the most prevalent race in 91 of the state’s 100 counties, with Blacks making up the largest share in an eight-county swath near the Virginia border from Vance to Hertford and south to Edgecombe. Native Americans are the most prevalent group in Robeson County.

The bureau’s numbers also show North Carolina as a whole is slightly less diverse than the nation as a whole.

The diversity index measures the percent chance that two people randomly chosen would be of a different race or ethnicity.

In North Carolina, the chance of that happening is 57.9 percent — a tick below the national score of 61.1 percent.

Both the state and the country have become more diverse during the past decade. North Carolina’s diversity index in 2010 was 52.1 percent while it was 54.9 percent for the U.S. as a whole.

North Carolina is ahead of South Carolina (54.6 percent) and Tennessee (46.6 percent) but trails Virginia (60.5 percent).

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