From staff reports
Even though the county has seen more deaths than births, McDowell has seen a small population growth from 2020 to 2021 due to more people settling here.
McDowell is one of 73 counties in North Carolina whose population has increased since 2020, according to a recent report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But McDowell’s growth was weak at just 0.3% from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. Other surrounding counties also saw weak growth during this time. They are Avery (.3%), Buncombe (.8%), Yancey (1.6%), Mitchell (.4%) and Rutherford (.2%). Burke experienced no population growth.
McDowell’s population on April 1, 2020 was estimated at 44,578 and its population on July 1, 2021 was estimated at 44,717, a difference of 139 people. During this period McDowell had more deaths than births, so the increase, although small, is attributed to more people coming to live here or what is called net migration.
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Meanwhile, 438 people have moved to McDowell, according to a report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This report is based on information from the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s 2021 county population estimates are the first set of population estimates based on the 2020 census. The new data shows North Carolina grew by 112,000 people or 1.1% between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, faster than the national rate of 0.1%. An estimated 73 North Carolina counties grew in the 15 months following the census, according to the report.
The fastest growing counties were the coastal counties or the suburbs of the Triangle: Brunswick and Currituck had an estimated population increase of 5.5%, followed by Johnston (4.9%), Camden and Franklin (4.6%). ) and Pender (4.3%).
Other counties with growth above the state rate included:
Dare, Carteret and New Hanover on the coast
Suburbs in the Charlotte region around Mecklenburg (Lincoln, Iredell, Cabarrus, Union and Gaston)
Wake County and other Triangle suburbs and suburbs (Chatham, Harnett, Granville)
Moore, Hoke and Lee Counties
Western counties of Clay, Macon, and Cherokee, plus Yancey, Madison, and Polk
Counties with estimated population losses are concentrated in the (non-coastal) east, with counties experiencing the largest percentage losses – Bertie (-2.4%), Northampton (-2.0%) and Hyde ( -1.8%) – in the northeast. Another group of counties with population losses – Caldwell, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin – are in the northwest.
Between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, North Carolina experienced natural decline – more deaths than births – for the first time. This reflects the combined impacts of the aging population and the pandemic, which have lowered births and increased deaths.
“This means that the state’s population growth during this period was entirely due to more people moving into the state than moving away from it,” said Rebecca Tippett, author of the history of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report.
Eighty-four counties in North Carolina have recorded more deaths than births. The county with the largest difference between deaths and births was Brunswick (-1,509), a top retirement destination; followed by Buncombe (-1,159) and Henderson (-971) to the west.
The 16 counties with more births than deaths were mostly in large metropolitan areas (Charlotte, the Triangle, and the Triad) or the army-associated counties of Onslow, Cumberland, and Hoke. While Guilford and Forsyth had more births than deaths, the small margins — 52 and 9, respectively — suggest those counties may see a natural decline later in the decade, the report said.
For four of these 16 counties—Mecklenburg, Onslow, Cumberland and Durham—natural increase was the only source of growth; they all had an estimated net emigration. This is a common pattern for Onslow and Cumberland, but represents a divergence from pre-pandemic trends for Mecklenburg and Durham.
Seventy-nine counties in North Carolina have seen more people move in than move out since the 2020 census. In four of the five fastest growing counties, net migration was either the sole source of growth (Brunswick, Currituck and Franklin), or nearly all of the population growth (Camden, with two more births than deaths), according to the report.
McDowell’s net migration for this period is 438 people.
The 21 North Carolina counties with net emigration were primarily in the Eastern and Sandhills regions of the state, with two notable exceptions: Mecklenburg and Durham. Mecklenburg and Durham both saw large estimated inflows of international migrants, but even larger outflows of people leaving for other counties and states.
These emigrations contributed to the slowdown in growth for Mecklenburg (0.6%) and Durham (0.4%); both counties grew more slowly than the state as a whole. This contrasts with their ranking of population growth over the past decade, according to the report.