The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data from its 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), revealing some interesting trends about people who live in North Carolina and here also in Wilkes County.
The 2018 ACS shows that North Carolina continues to see a net increase in population, with more than 300,000 people moving to the Tar Heel State during 2018, while about 200,000 moved out of the state during the same period.
So where are the migrants to North Carolina coming from? In 2018, the biggest influx—around 35,000 folks—came from Florida, which has been known as a popular retirement destination for decades. How many went the other way, from our state to the Sunshine State? Around 25,000.
Not surprisingly, many people who move to or from North Carolina don’t go very far: the bordering states of South Carolina and Virginia saw about an equal number of N.C. comings and goings in 2018—about 25,000 each way.
Around 25,000 New Yorkers moved to North Carolina in 2018, furthering a stronghold of Empire State natives here. In fact, the ACS estimates that, as of 2018, almost half a million (488,647, to be exact) N.C. residents were born in New York State. No other state is close—Virginia limps into the runner-up slot with just over 300,000 native sons now calling our state home.
On the flip side, North Carolinians who weren’t born here didn’t travel that far to get here. They’re coming from South Carolina (270,167 residents, according to 2018 estimates), Virginia (226,705), Florida (178,131) and Georgia (152,647).
Why are people moving to North Carolina from Florida and New York, specifically? Most of what I’ve read on factors related to migration tend to focus on five issues: health care, climate, cost of living, culture and transportation.
Florida, simply put, is a hot state, temperature wise, and, intensified by climate change, it’s forecasted to get even hotter in coming decades. Florida has the highest average daily temperature of any state in the lower 48, by a wide margin (71.8° vs. 66.7° in Louisiana); North Carolina is well down that list, at number 13, with a much-more moderate average of 58.7°.
If global warming continues at its current pace, by mid-century, could North Carolina become the “new Florida” for retirees and those migrating north or south in search of a four-season climate? I consider it a strong possibility.
On the other end of the mercury scale, New York is well-known for its long, cold winters. Also, factoring in high costs of living and infamous traffic congestion, it’s no surprise that vast numbers of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey natives have migrated to North Carolina over the years.
North Carolina finds itself in the sweet spot of the mid-Atlantic seaboard—geographically centered between the sweltering heat of Florida and the frigid cold of New England. It’s a position that lends itself to the population growth documented by ACS.
In 1940, North Carolina had a population that was 90% native to the state. By 2018, the indigenous had dropped sharply to about 61% of the populace.
The Census Bureau also published some interesting county-to-county migration flowcharts, based on ACS surveys conducted between 2012 and 2016.
When citizens move out of Wilkes, where do they go? Again, not surprisingly, a majority didn’t go far: to nearby Caldwell (an estimated 375 migrants from 2012-16) and Yadkin (117 migrants) counties. They also went to Guilford and Surry counties (each with 98).
Likewise, when folks move to Wilkes, they’re making relatively short jumps from Caldwell (265 migrants), Forsyth (249), Surry (158) and Ashe (111) counties.
The biggest influx from another state came from the rural, impoverished West Virginia county of Mercer, which saw 112 of its residents find a new home in Wilkes during the five-year period—almost double the 61 coming from runner-up Leon County, Fla.