Fastest-growing counties in North Carolina

Written by:
May 18, 2022
Bz3rk // Wikimedia Commons

Fastest-growing counties in North Carolina

Why do people move from one county or region to another? The usual suspects are jobs, family, significant others, and overall cost of living, but there are other elements at play. For those with children, moving within close proximity of a highly rated school district is a key contributing factor. For younger adults just starting out, living someplace with a vibrant social scene might be a top priority. And for those whose careers have wound down after a lifetime of work, finding retirement-friendly communities is the goal—communities deemed to be safe, offer accessibility to medical resources and leisure activities in equal measure, and be affordable for those on a limited income.

This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive list. People’s reasons for choosing to live where they do are as diverse as people themselves.

As far as why certain counties across the U.S. have experienced growth, relocation is not the sole, or even primary, reason why. While more than 1,800 counties saw population gains in 2021, approximately 73% of all U.S. counties saw what the U.S. Census Bureau characterizes as a natural decrease. This was a significant jump from 2020, when 55.5% of countries experienced such a decrease. According to the Bureau, natural decrease is the simple result of “when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given time period.” In 2021, the conflation of fewer births with an aging population that was also absorbing a higher-than-usual mortality rate due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to this “increased decrease.”

Nonetheless, as stated 1,800 counties nationwide have grown larger over the last year, and a sizable percentage of them are in North Carolina. Stacker compiled a list of the fastest-growing counties in North Carolina using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the highest population growth from 2010 to 2020, based on the U.S. Decennial Census.

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#50. Pasquotank County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: -93
--- #1,624 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: -0.2%
--- #50 among counties in North Carolina, #1,532 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 40,568
--- #62 largest county in North Carolina, #1,169 largest county nationwide
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#49. Avery County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +9
--- #1,477 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +0.1%
--- #49 among counties in North Carolina, #1,480 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 17,806
--- #85 largest county in North Carolina, #1,930 largest county nationwide
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#48. Swain County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +136
--- #1,364 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.0%
--- #48 among counties in North Carolina, #1,338 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 14,117
--- #88 largest county in North Carolina, #2,146 largest county nationwide
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#47. Camden County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +375
--- #1,216 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +3.8%
--- #37 among counties in North Carolina, #958 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 10,355
--- #96 largest county in North Carolina, #2,386 largest county nationwide
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#46. Madison County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +429
--- #1,189 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +2.1%
--- #42 among counties in North Carolina, #1,172 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 21,193
--- #79 largest county in North Carolina, #1,756 largest county nationwide

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#45. Clay County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +502
--- #1,148 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +4.7%
--- #35 among counties in North Carolina, #854 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 11,089
--- #92 largest county in North Carolina, #2,337 largest county nationwide
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#44. Yancey County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +652
--- #1,105 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +3.7%
--- #39 among counties in North Carolina, #968 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 18,470
--- #83 largest county in North Carolina, #1,899 largest county nationwide
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EbonyEaton // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Granville County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,076
--- #982 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.8%
--- #44 among counties in North Carolina, #1,215 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 60,992
--- #45 largest county in North Carolina, #865 largest county nationwide
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#42. Carteret County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,217
--- #958 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.8%
--- #43 among counties in North Carolina, #1,213 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 67,686
--- #39 largest county in North Carolina, #790 largest county nationwide
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#41. Cherokee County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,330
--- #941 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +4.8%
--- #33 among counties in North Carolina, #841 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 28,774
--- #71 largest county in North Carolina, #1,465 largest county nationwide

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OptimumPx // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Cleveland County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,441
--- #917 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.5%
--- #46 among counties in North Carolina, #1,256 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 99,519
--- #29 largest county in North Carolina, #610 largest county nationwide
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#39. Davie County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,472
--- #910 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +3.6%
--- #40 among counties in North Carolina, #978 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 42,712
--- #60 largest county in North Carolina, #1,127 largest county nationwide
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Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Stanly County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +1,919
--- #830 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +3.2%
--- #41 among counties in North Carolina, #1,028 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 62,504
--- #43 largest county in North Carolina, #853 largest county nationwide
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#37. Pitt County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +2,095
--- #805 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.2%
--- #47 among counties in North Carolina, #1,297 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 170,243
--- #16 largest county in North Carolina, #390 largest county nationwide
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#36. Randolph County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +2,419
--- #759 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +1.7%
--- #45 among counties in North Carolina, #1,225 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 144,171
--- #21 largest county in North Carolina, #460 largest county nationwide

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#35. Jackson County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +2,838
--- #730 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +7.0%
--- #29 among counties in North Carolina, #631 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 43,109
--- #58 largest county in North Carolina, #1,113 largest county nationwide
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#34. Dare County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +2,995
--- #707 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +8.8%
--- #28 among counties in North Carolina, #499 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 36,915
--- #66 largest county in North Carolina, #1,254 largest county nationwide
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#33. Watauga County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +3,007
--- #705 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +5.9%
--- #31 among counties in North Carolina, #729 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 54,086
--- #49 largest county in North Carolina, #937 largest county nationwide
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#32. Haywood County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +3,053
--- #699 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +5.2%
--- #32 among counties in North Carolina, #799 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 62,089
--- #44 largest county in North Carolina, #857 largest county nationwide
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#31. Macon County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +3,092
--- #694 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +9.1%
--- #25 among counties in North Carolina, #472 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 37,014
--- #65 largest county in North Carolina, #1,250 largest county nationwide

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#30. Currituck County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +4,553
--- #588 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +19.3%
--- #8 among counties in North Carolina, #126 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 28,100
--- #72 largest county in North Carolina, #1,493 largest county nationwide
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#29. Hoke County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +5,130
--- #561 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +10.9%
--- #20 among counties in North Carolina, #371 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 52,082
--- #50 largest county in North Carolina, #965 largest county nationwide
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Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Lee County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +5,419
--- #550 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +9.4%
--- #24 among counties in North Carolina, #457 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 63,285
--- #42 largest county in North Carolina, #845 largest county nationwide
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#27. Davidson County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +6,052
--- #534 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +3.7%
--- #38 among counties in North Carolina, #964 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 168,930
--- #17 largest county in North Carolina, #395 largest county nationwide
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#26. Catawba County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +6,252
--- #527 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +4.1%
--- #36 among counties in North Carolina, #920 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 160,610
--- #18 largest county in North Carolina, #417 largest county nationwide

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Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Franklin County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +7,954
--- #486 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +13.1%
--- #15 among counties in North Carolina, #281 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 68,573
--- #38 largest county in North Carolina, #782 largest county nationwide
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#24. Pender County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +7,986
--- #484 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +15.3%
--- #12 among counties in North Carolina, #217 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 60,203
--- #46 largest county in North Carolina, #870 largest county nationwide
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AlexiusHoratius // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Rowan County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +8,447
--- #471 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +6.1%
--- #30 among counties in North Carolina, #702 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 146,875
--- #20 largest county in North Carolina, #453 largest county nationwide
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#22. Lincoln County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +8,545
--- #464 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +10.9%
--- #21 among counties in North Carolina, #372 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 86,810
--- #33 largest county in North Carolina, #671 largest county nationwide
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#21. Henderson County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +9,541
--- #438 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +8.9%
--- #27 among counties in North Carolina, #488 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 116,281
--- #26 largest county in North Carolina, #541 largest county nationwide

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#20. Moore County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +11,480
--- #398 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +13.0%
--- #17 among counties in North Carolina, #291 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 99,727
--- #28 largest county in North Carolina, #606 largest county nationwide
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#19. Chatham County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +12,780
--- #377 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +20.1%
--- #7 among counties in North Carolina, #116 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 76,285
--- #36 largest county in North Carolina, #734 largest county nationwide
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#18. Orange County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +14,895
--- #347 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +11.1%
--- #19 among counties in North Carolina, #365 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 148,696
--- #19 largest county in North Carolina, #450 largest county nationwide
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#17. Cumberland County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +15,297
--- #344 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +4.8%
--- #34 among counties in North Carolina, #848 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 334,728
--- #5 largest county in North Carolina, #213 largest county nationwide
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Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Harnett County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +18,890
--- #303 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +16.5%
--- #11 among counties in North Carolina, #181 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 133,568
--- #23 largest county in North Carolina, #483 largest county nationwide

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#15. Alamance County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +20,284
--- #288 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +13.4%
--- #14 among counties in North Carolina, #265 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 171,415
--- #15 largest county in North Carolina, #386 largest county nationwide
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#14. Gaston County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +21,857
--- #271 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +10.6%
--- #23 among counties in North Carolina, #388 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 227,943
--- #9 largest county in North Carolina, #303 largest county nationwide
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#13. New Hanover County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +23,035
--- #263 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +11.4%
--- #18 among counties in North Carolina, #352 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 225,702
--- #11 largest county in North Carolina, #310 largest county nationwide
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#12. Onslow County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +26,804
--- #239 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +15.1%
--- #13 among counties in North Carolina, #224 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 204,576
--- #13 largest county in North Carolina, #334 largest county nationwide
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#11. Iredell County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +27,256
--- #234 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +17.1%
--- #10 among counties in North Carolina, #163 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 186,693
--- #14 largest county in North Carolina, #358 largest county nationwide

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#10. Brunswick County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +29,262
--- #223 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +27.2%
--- #2 among counties in North Carolina, #51 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 136,693
--- #22 largest county in North Carolina, #475 largest county nationwide
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#9. Buncombe County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +31,134
--- #206 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +13.1%
--- #16 among counties in North Carolina, #284 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 269,452
--- #7 largest county in North Carolina, #259 largest county nationwide
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#8. Forsyth County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +31,920
--- #197 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +9.1%
--- #26 among counties in North Carolina, #474 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 382,590
--- #4 largest county in North Carolina, #190 largest county nationwide
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#7. Union County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +36,975
--- #174 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +18.4%
--- #9 among counties in North Carolina, #139 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 238,267
--- #8 largest county in North Carolina, #286 largest county nationwide
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Ammodramus // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Johnston County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +47,121
--- #139 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +27.9%
--- #1 among counties in North Carolina, #46 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 215,999
--- #12 largest county in North Carolina, #318 largest county nationwide

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PHHI // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Cabarrus County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +47,793
--- #137 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +26.8%
--- #3 among counties in North Carolina, #53 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 225,804
--- #10 largest county in North Carolina, #309 largest county nationwide
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#4. Guilford County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +52,893
--- #125 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +10.8%
--- #22 among counties in North Carolina, #379 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 541,299
--- #3 largest county in North Carolina, #129 largest county nationwide
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#3. Durham County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +57,246
--- #111 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +21.4%
--- #5 among counties in North Carolina, #93 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 324,833
--- #6 largest county in North Carolina, #221 largest county nationwide
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#2. Mecklenburg County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +195,854
--- #20 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +21.3%
--- #6 among counties in North Carolina, #94 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 1,115,482
--- #2 largest county in North Carolina, #41 largest county nationwide
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#1. Wake County

- 2010 to 2020 population change: +228,417
--- #16 among all counties nationwide
- 2010 to 2020 percent population change: +25.4%
--- #4 among counties in North Carolina, #63 among all counties nationwide
- 2020 population: 1,129,410
--- #1 largest county in North Carolina, #40 largest county nationwide

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