Census Data Reveal Raleigh Growth and Population Shifts

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A map of the major changes in the past decade. Only tracts with significant change are shown. Green tracts have grown by more than 20 percent, red have experienced decreases of more than 20 percent. The blue tract experienced explosive growth. Click on a tract to learn more.
As one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, it is not surprising that 44 Raleigh census tracts grew by more than 20 percent. Most of the growth has been in the northwest part of the city, with other high-growth tracts in the northeast and southeast.

Only two census tracts in the downtown area grew by more than 20 percent. One tract is at the center of downtown and includes Nash and Moore squares; the other is along the Glenwood Avenue corridor, from Hillsborough Street to Wade Avenue.

Conversely, the population in one tract located near downtown, in the Boylan Heights area, experienced a 21 percent drop in population, but the largest drop – 55 percent – was noted in the area bordered by Western Boulevard, Gorman Street and Avent Ferry Road.

Only four tracts remained little changed in the past decade. Population growth in the areas north of New Bern Avenue, from downtown to near Sunnybrook Road, remained very steady, as did the area west of Rock Quarry Road and east of Hammond Road.

Census tracts are small statistical subdivisions of a county that mainly occur in metropolitan areas. Individual tracts are created by local committees following Census Bureau guidelines that encourage tracts with similar populations, economic status, and living conditions.

Tracts usually hold between 2,500 and 8,000 persons, but sizes vary depending on population density. Ideally, tracts are stable so statistical comparisons can be made from census to census, but changes can occur where physical changes in street patterns are caused by construction or development. Occasionally, census tracts are split due to high population growth, but they can also be combined where populations decline substantially.

In terms of population density, only four tracts currently hold more than 10,000 persons. One such tract (52806) was located between Poole Road and Rock Quarry Road east of Sunnybrook Road, holding 13,750 people. Another, an area northeast of Durant Road and Capital Boulevard — also one of the highest-growth areas — held 12,070 people. Two other contiguous tracts, between Poole Road and Buffaloe Road, outside the Beltline, held populations of 11,713 and 10,699, respectively.

Tracts play a political role because they are used to create state and local electoral districts, such as the Wake County school board. Because seats in the U.S. House of Representative are based on state population totals, census results can affect a state’s number of representatives.

Locally, tract data play a crucial role in municipal growth planning. Raleigh adopted its current Comprehensive Plan in November 2009, so most of the changes noted in the 2010 census tract data occurred under the old comprehensive plan.

With more growth predicted in Raleigh’s future and a new comprehensive plan designed to encourage density in the city’s center, planners no doubt hope the next census results will reverse the trend of the last decade.

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