The North Carolina population statistics make for very interesting reading as a whole, but how do the numbers stack up in recent years? North Carolina currently has a very healthy growth rate of 1.13%, which ranks 14th in the nation.
It's essential to look at the last set of confirmed figures which were declared at the time of the official US census of 2010. At the time, it was reported that there were 9,535,483 people living in the state, and that represented a significant rise of 18.5% from the numbers declared in 2000.
North Carolina may only rank in the lower middle half of the US in terms of size but it more than makes up for those statistics with its population density. The total surface area is 53,819 square miles (139,390 square kilometers) and there is an average of 196 people for every square mile. This makes North Carolina the 15th most densely populated state in the US.
North Carolina has three major Combined Statistical Areas with populations over 1.6 million, as of 2016. This includes:
Charlotte is by far the largest city in North Carolina, claiming 827,097 residents out of the total population of over 10 million. While North Carolina has historically been a rural area, the past thirty years have seen a rapid increase in urbanization, like most of the United States. Today, most of the residents of North Carolina live in urban and suburban areas.
The most populated counties in North Carolina are Mecklenburg (1,076,837), Wake (1,072,203), and Guilford (526,953) counties.
The median age of the population in North Carolina is approximately 38.3 years of age. The ratio of females to males in the state is about 51.4% females to 48.6% males.
In terms of religious preferences across the state, 77% of the population report affiliation with a Christian based faith, 3% are affiliated with non-Christian based faiths, and 20% are unaffiliated with any faith in particular.
North Carolina was one of the 13 original States and by the time of the 1790 census had essentially its current boundaries. In 1790 census coverage included most of the State, except for areas at the western end, parts of which were not enumerated until 1840. The population for 1810 includes Walton County, enumerated as part of Georgia although actually within North Carolina.
According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of North Carolina was:
It’s a simplistic view at times to suggest that the western states within the US had healthy populations from the very birth of the United States' independence but the figures in relation to North Carolina certainly back up that view.
In 1790, recorded figures show that the North Carolina population had already reached 393,751 and just ten years later those numbers had climbed to 478,103. Similar rises were noted in the Censuses that followed, and in 1870 it was confirmed that numbers had exceeded one million for the very first time.
Average percentage rises in the years that have followed have tended to be in the region of 18%, and when the numbers are already healthy, that leads to a growing population and a densely populated state.
With healthy natural growth and net migration, there is nothing apparent that would suggest that the North Carolina population growth will slow down. The population density is significant but there is space still to accommodate an ever-growing territory.
It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the census of 2020 will show that the population has far exceeded 10 million. According to state projections, North Carolina will reach a population of 10.5 million in 2020, and will then surpass 11 million by 2030.
North Carolina has seen a large growth in diversity, mostly fueled by immigrants from India, Southeast Asia and Latin America. There have also been high numbers of people moving from the Northeastern area of the US, Florida and even as far away as California.
North Carolina has a large African American population that makes up almost a quarter of its total population. Since the 1970s, the number of middle-class black residents has increased, and most African Americans live on the eastern Coastal Plain and in areas of the Piedmont Plateau. Many free black people migrated to the frontier areas of the state from Virginia during the colonial and post-Revolutionary period, with 80% counted as "all other free persons" in the 1790-1810 census.
The state also has a large and growing population of Asian Americans, especially those from India and Vietnam. North Carolina has the largest population of Montagnards (about 10,000) in the United States. These refugees from Vietnam's Central Highlands first arrived in the 1980s, and most live in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte. North Carolina is also home to the largest American Indian population on the East Coast with an estimated population of 110,000 with 8 tribal nations recognized.
When examining data from the 2010 Census and US Census Bureau estimates from 2015, the counties of North Carolina have both significant increases and decreases in population across the state. The largest percentages of growth were recorded in the southern and central regions of the state. Brunswick County, the southernmost North Carolina County, reflected a growth of 13.48%, the largest rate of growth during the 5-year period. This was followed by Wake County at 12.93% and Mecklenburg at 12%. Eight additional counties in the state had growth rates that exceeded 10%, while other counties saw smaller rates of growth.
The largest decreases in population were recorded in the northeastern corner of the state, with Tyrrell County showing the largest decline at 7.77%. Other counties with higher losses include Northampton at 7.14%, Gates at 6%, and Washington at 5.91%. North Carolina had other counties with losses that were less than 5%, and these counties include Graham, Anson, Richmond, and Beaufort.
Black or African American
Two or more races
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Average Family Size
Average Household Size
Rate of Home Ownership
Less Than 9th Grade
9th to 12th Grade
High School Graduate
High School Graduation Rate
The highest rate of high school graduation is among white people with a rate of 80.53%.
The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 51.78%.
Other Indo-European Languages
Asian and Pacific Island Languages
87.93% of North Carolina residents speak only English, while 12.07% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 7.71% of the population.
Overall Poverty Rate
Male Poverty Rate
Female Poverty Rate
The race most likely to be in poverty in North Carolina is Hispanic, with 34.69% below the poverty level.
The race least likely to be in poverty in North Carolina is White, with 11.08% below the poverty level.
The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 2.84%. Among those working part-time, it was 16.93%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 21.02%.
Overall Marriage Rate
Male Marriage Rate
Female Marriage Rate
The age group where males are most likely to be married is Over 65, while the female age group most likely to be married is 45-54.
Second Gulf War
First Gulf War
World War II
Less Than 9th Grade
High School Graduate
Bachelors or Greater
Veteran Poverty Rate
Veteran Disability Rate
Labor Force Participation
Non citizens include legal permanent residents (green card holders), international students, temporary workers, humanitarian migrants, and illegal immigrants.
Born in North Carolina
94.34% of North Carolina residents were born in the United States, with 56.93% having been born in North Carolina. 4.93% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Latin America.