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Two Macro Trends Driving Population… and Why It’s Good News
In the Charleston region, we talk a lot about our population growth rate. Attendees at last week’s Economic Outlook Conference probably know the tri-county region’s key stats:
- We add 45 net new people per day, 34 who move here and 11 who are born here
- 70% who move here come from other metros in the Southeast
- Most move-ins are prime working age; less than 6% are over age 65
- A majority of move-ins have post-secondary degrees
That’s all Charleston-region specific data. Let’s zoom out and look at two macro trends driving our population growth:
- Sun Belt states are growing – On a U.S. map, start in Virginia and draw a big sweeping arch across the southeast to Texas and up through the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast. That’s the Sun Belt and it’s where the bulk of population growth has happened for decades. South Carolina has grown at more than 10% in every census since 1980
- Metro regions are growing most – At the 2010 census, more than four-fifths (83.7 percent) of the U.S. population lived in a metro area. Those areas accounted for nearly all the population growth over the previous decade. All of the top 10 fastest growing metro regions identified in the last census were in the Sun Belt. (Charleston wasn’t among them, but Myrtle Beach was)
As a metro region in the South, macro trends mean Charleston is virtually destined to grow. Scour the Sun Belt and you won’t find a metro region that isn’t growing. And that’s a blessing for our economy.
Just this week, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that by 2030, for the first time ever, older people (over age 65) will outnumber children (under age 18). Twelve short years from now the country is projected to have more people drawing social security than poised to enter the workforce. That’s a scary notion for anyone charged with hiring.
As we approach this top-heavy demographic reality, growing regions with younger populations (like Charleston) will have a distinct competitive advantage based purely on the labor force.
To secure our region’s economic advantage, we have to accommodate our growth while enhancing our quality of life. That means more density where it is appropriate and building housing at the prices we need so that our kids and grandkids can afford to live and flourish here. That is no small feat. Success will demand region-wide cooperation among elected, business and non-profit leaders alike.