South Carolina Population 2016

4,963,132

Situated on the southeastern tip of the United States, South Carolina is one of the smallest states in the country but has a high population density by comparison. It's estimated that South Carolina's population reached 4,896,146 in 2016, up from 4.62 million at the 2010 Census. South Carolina currently enjoys a growth rate of 1.06%, which ranks 18th in the country.

The last set of confirmed population figures in the United States came with the nationwide Census carried out in 2010. At the time, it was confirmed that there were 4,625,364 people living in the state -- a rise of just over 15% on the figures declared in 2000. The Census Bureau estimates there are 4,896,146 residents of South Carolina in 2016, making it the 24th most populous state in the entire country.

Like many states on the eastern edge of the country, South Carolina is densely populated in comparison to its relatively small size. The state has an overall surface area of 32,020 square miles (82,931 square kilometers) which makes it just the 40th largest in the US.

For every square mile of South Carolina territory, however, there is an average of 153.9 people. That figure makes the state the 19th most densely populated in the country.

The two largest cities in South Carolina are Columbia (pop 133,803) and Charleston (pop 132,609), followed by North Charleston (pop 108,304). These are the only cities in the state with a population over 100,000.

Interestingly, South Carolina's metropolitan statistical areas are much larger than they appear based on the central city populations. Because of South Carolina law regarding unincorporated areas around city limits, most city proper populations seem smaller than the actual size of the area.

For example, Columbia, Greenville and Charleston each have urbanized area populations between 400,000 and 550,000, with the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) populations exceeding 60,000. The Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson area is by far the largest, accounting for 1.4 million of South Carolina's population.

South Carolina Population Chart

South Carolina Population History

In 1790, the population of South Carolina stood at an already healthy level of 249,073 and ten years later, at the start of the 19th century, those numbers had risen by just under 40% to 345,591. That was a significant rise, although it may not have been quite as substantial as other parts of the country were recording at the time.

The pattern of increases in the population of South Carolina continued to display healthy, if unspectacular, percentage growth and the numbers went beyond the one million mark for the first time in 1890.

In the 1900s, percentage growth slowed down to an extent but the overall picture was one of sustained increases through the end of the century. That has also continued to the present day where the South Carolina population is edging closer to the 5 million landmark in 2016.

South Carolina Population Projections

Natural growth and net migration in South Carolina is extremely healthy and there is nothing to suggest that this pattern will change in the years leading up to the next census.

Projections currently estimate South Carolina's population will just barely exceed 5 million by the 2020 Census, with a population over 65 that exceeds the national average.

Population Data via US Census

South Carolina Growth Rate

South Carolina State Rank

Year Pop % Change
2020 5,231,076 1.30%
2019 5,164,090 1.31%
2018 5,097,104 1.33%
2017 5,030,118 1.35%
2016 4,963,132 1.37%
2015 4,896,146 1.39%
2014 4,829,160 1.27%
2013 4,768,498 1.00%
2012 4,721,341 1.04%
2011 4,672,733 1.02%
2010 4,625,364 1.43%
2000 4,012,012 1.41%
1990 3,486,703 1.11%
1980 3,121,820 1.88%
1970 2,590,516 0.84%
1960 2,382,594 1.19%
1950 2,117,027 1.09%
1940 1,899,804 0.89%
1930 1,738,765 0.32%
1920 1,683,724 1.06%
1910 1,515,400 1.24%
1900 1,340,316 1.53%
1890 1,151,149 1.46%
1880 995,577 3.50%
1870 705,606 0.03%
1860 703,708 0.51%
1850 668,507 1.18%
1840 594,398 0.23%
1830 581,185 1.46%
1820 502,741 1.93%
1810 415,115 1.85%
1800 345,591 3.33%
1790 249,073 0.00%

South Carolina Facts

South Carolina  Population in 2016 Source: Akhenaton06

  • The Cherokee, Catawba, and Yamasee were the largest Native American groups that lived on the land that now comprises the state of South Carolina.
  • The first English settlement was established in 1670 at Albemarle Point. Because of poor conditions in this area, early settlers relocated to Charleston.
  • South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861 and was the first state to do so.
  • South Carolina is now the Palmetto State, but it was once known as the Iodine State.
  • The Carolina colony was divided in 1729 into North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • Morgan Island in South Carolina has no human population. However, it is home to approximately 3,500 free-range monkeys, thus earning the location the nickname of Monkey Island.
  • In 1900, nearly 6 out of 10 South Carolinians were African American. Many left the state to find job opportunities up north, and today, just 3 out of 10 South Carolinians are African American.
  • Nearly one-quarter of South Carolina soldiers fighting in the Civil War were killed in battle.
  • An average of 28.5 million people visit the state annually.

South Carolina Population Density by County

  • Population
  • Density
  • Growth Since 2010
  • State Rank
  • % of State

South Carolina Population Growth Rate by County

Data from the 2010 Census when compared to estimates taken in 2015 by the US Census Bureau shows that the counties of South Carolina have seen significant increases and decreases in population. Multiple counties in the state experienced population growth exceeding 10%, including the highest gain posted in Horry County at 14.3%. Other significant population increases include Berkeley County at 13.34%, Jasper County at 11.65%, and Charleston County at 10.88%, all located in the easternmost region of the state. Counties along the northern border that exhibited significant growth include Greenville, Lancaster, and Cherokee.

Some counties also saw declining populations during this 5-year period. Allendale County's 8.81% loss was the highest in the state, followed by Bamberg and Lee Counties at 6.82% loss per county. Other population declines were recorded in Williamsburg, McCormick, Chester, Hampton, and Spartanburg.

Population Pyramid

To compare South Carolina to other states, click here.

Population by Race

Race Population Percentage

South Carolina has the 5th highest percentage of Black or African American residents in relation to its total population, with the majority taking up residence in the Midlands and Low Country regions. While the state doesn't have a high percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents, it has seen the most rapid growth of any state in the period between 2000 and 2010. During this ten-year period, the state saw a 147.9% growth in its Hispanic population.

The largest ancestry groups in the state are: African American (29.5%), American (13.9%), English (8.4%), German (8.4%) and Irish (7.9%). For much of the state's history, African slaves and their descendants made up a majority of the state's total population, with whites becoming a majority in the beginning of the early 20th century, when thousands of blacks moved to the north. Today, most of the African American population lives in the Midlands and Lowcountry areas.

Languages Spoken in South Carolina

Language Population Percentage
Population 5 years and over 4,381,360 100
English 4,130,285 94.27
Spanish 195,870 4.47
German 12,660 0.29
French 11,035 0.25
Chinese 7,895 0.18
Portuguese 3,455 0.08
Ukrainian 1,880 0.04
Mandarin 1,480 0.03
Telugu 940 0.02

This chart shows the top 10 non-English languages that are spoken at home in South Carolina . The data comes from the most recent release of the American Community Survey (ACS).

South Carolina Economy

HighSchoolGraduate 85
BachelorsDegree 25
Disabled 10
NoHealthInsurance 16
LaborForceTotal 60
LaborForceFemale 57
FoodServiceSales 9,763,818
HealthCareRevenue 22,941,292
ManufacturerShipments 99,160,840
MerchantWholesalesSales 45,520,900
RetailSales 58,093,824
RetailSalesPerCapita 12,298
MeanWorkTravelTime 24
MedianHouseholdIncome 45,033
PerCapitaIncome 24,222
PovertyPercentage 18

South Carolina Business

NonemployerEstablishments 319,046
AllFirms 367,726
MenOwnedFirms 202,446
WomenOwnedFirms 131,856
MinorityOwnedFirms 83,233
NonminorityOwnedFirms 276,269
VeteranOwnedFirms 47,987
NonveteranOwn 303,137

South Carolina Housing

HousingUnits 2,210,082
HousingUnits 2,137,683
OwnerOccupiedRate 69
OwnerOccupiedMedianValue 137,600
MonthlyOwnerCostsMortage 1,201
MonthlyOwnerCostsNoMortage 347
MedianGrossRent 784
BuildingPermits 31,030
Households 1,795,715
PersonsPerHousehold 3
SameHouseOneYearAgo 85
NonEnglishAtHome 7
Data Sources
  1. Census State Population Estimates - Most recent state estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  2. Census County Population Estimates - Most recent county estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  3. American Community Survey (2009 - 2013)
  4. Census QuickFacts