Population & Demographics
Understanding the demographic profile of our county is important. Tracking changes will help us plan for the future, and provide better services to our community. On this page you will find some of the demographic information we have collected during our efforts to learn more about the citizens living in our community. Additionally, you will discover interactive web maps designed to invite your exploration of this information.
Please note: the information on this page is based on the most recent U.S. census conducted in 2010. Current population estimates can be found on the Census.gov website.
Explore an interactive web map that highlights the changing population density across New Hanover County, NC between the 2000 and 2010 census years. Population density was first analyzed and mapped at the census block level for both the 2000 and 2010 census years. Then the population density between census years was compared. The changes (+/-) were captured, mapped, and symbolized as hot spots.
Historic Population 1940 to 2010
The population of New Hanover County has more than quadrupled since 1940, increasing from slightly over 50,000 in 1940 to over 200,000 today. The majority of New Hanover County's growth occurred in the period following 1990 after Interstate I-40 was completed. The construction of I-40 improved access to New Hanover County and led to the immigration of residents from other counties in North Carolina, as well as from other states. Historically, other periods of high growth include the 1940s, with the issuance of the G.I. Bill providing home loans for veterans.
Historic Population By Jurisdiction
The distribution of the majority of the County's population has alternated between the City of Wilmington and the unincorporated area of New Hanover County. Beginning in the 1960s, the City of Wilmington began to experience a decline in population as suburban housing patterns in unincorporated areas became more attractive to residents. Major annexations of land by the City of Wilmington in 1995 and 1998 contributed to the City's increase in population during the 1990s. By 2000, the population of New Hanover County was almost equally distributed between the City of Wilmington and the unincorporated area. Today, the City of Wilmington contains the majority of the population. This fluctuation will likely stabilize with the current legislative requirements regarding annexation.
A look at the tri-county population (New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties) from 1980 to 2010 reveals that New Hanover County has nearly twice the population of Brunswick County and four times that of Pender County.
The population growth rates for the tri-county area over the last three decades are illustrated in the chart below. Although New Hanover County has a larger population, Brunswick and Pender Counties have experienced higher growth rates than New Hanover County. The tri-county area overall has outpaced the state's growth rate.
The tri-county area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. The region as a whole is expected to grow nearly 90% by 2040, with New Hanover County capturing the majority of that growth at a rate of 66%.
The racial composition of New Hanover County in 2010 showed that the majority of the population (77%) identified themselves as white, and 14% of the population identified themselves as African American. In the last three decades, the proportion of the African American population in New Hanover County has decreased by approximately 5%, while the Hispanic population has grown and now represents approximately 9% of the County's population.
New Hanover County's African American and Hispanic populations represent higher proportions of the population within the City of Wilmington than within the unincorporated areas of the county. Since 1990, African Americans residing in the unincorporated area made up approximately 4% of the total county population, compared to African Americans residing in the City of Wilmington, who made up approximately 10 to 15% of the total County population. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the white population has decreased in the unincorporated area and increased in the City of Wilmington, likely due to annexation.
As the population of New Hanover County grows, its composition by age is changing. Since 1990, the 25 to 44-year age group has represented the largest proportion of the total population, but this age group has experienced a decline in its proportion of the population in the last 30 years. The 25 to 44-year age group is at risk of losing its majority to the 45 to 64-year age group, which now represents nearly the same proportion of the population. From 1990 to 2010, the population in New Hanover County, in general, has become older, with the largest percentage increase in the 45 to 64 age group population. This is an important factor for our community to consider as we consider housing needs for the Baby Boomer Generation.
Another way to look at New Hanover County's age composition is by generation. As of 2010, Generation X (born 1966 to 1985) and the Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1965) represented the two largest segments of New Hanover County's population. The proportion of Baby Boomers continues to experience an upward trend, while Generation X is losing its share of the population in New Hanover County.
Since 1990 the proportion of males and females residing in New Hanover County has remained almost evenly split, with a slightly higher percentage of females. This remains true for both the City of Wilmington and the unincorporated areas of New Hanover County. However, the beach towns show the opposite split, with a slightly higher percentage of males.
Click this image to view an interactive web map that displays the distribution of the male and female population.
The educational attainment of the U.S. population shows the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population is spending more years in formal educational programs.
Currently, New Hanover County is ranked 5th in the state, with 35.5% of its population having completed a Bachelor's degree. (Source)
View an interactive web map that displays the highest level of educational attainment within New Hanover County.