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See How South Carolina’s Counties Are Growing and Shrinking
We know that of South Carolina’s 46 counties, some are growing and some are shrinking, but knowing that alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Today we’re going to look a little more in depth at the actual numbers.
South Carolina Counties That Have Grown Consistently 1970-2018
Forty counties have grown in population since 1970, including Aiken, Anderson, Beaufort, Georgetown, Greenwood, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, and Saluda Counties.
Some have grown by an impressive amount. The growth of the state capital Columbia is largely responsible for the growth of mid-state counties Lexington and Richland. Lexington more than doubled its population, growing from 89,012 to 295,032, while Richland grew from 233,868 to 414,576. Upstate, Greenville County, Spartanburg County, and York County grew significantly, too. Greenville County went from 240,546 in 1970 to 514,213; Spartanburg County from 173,724 to 313,888; and York from 85,216 to 274,118.
Unsurprisingly, the Charleston tri-county area has seen huge growth in the last 50 years. Charleston County grew from 247,650 in 1970 to 405,905 in 2018. Even more impressive, Dorchester County went from 32,276 to 160,647 and Berkeley County from 56,199 to 221,091. That’s a net gain of nearly half a million people (451,518 to be exact), from 336,125 to 787,643.
But the county that takes the cake is Horry County. Horry County exploded in population with the development of Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area, taking the population from 69,992 in 1970 to 344,147 in 2018 – a net gain of 274,155 people, or nearly quadrupling the number of people.
All of these counties have seen consistent growth over this time, with no losses in population at each 10-year census mark.
South Carolina Counties That Have Shrunk 1970-2018
From 1970 to 2018, six counties have had a net loss in population. This is significant since the state as a whole nearly doubled its population, from 2,590,066 in 1970 to 5,084,127 in 2018 – a net change of 2,494,061. The fact that any county lost population is notable.
Allendale County and Marlboro County lost the least, with a net loss of 789 people for Allendale and 753 for Marlboro. The counties that lost between 1,000-2,000 people are Bamberg County, from 15,950 to 14,275; Lee County, from 18,323 to 17,142; and Union County, from 29,230 to 27,410.
The unfortunate “leader” in this category is Williamsburg County, which lost more than 10% of its population between 1970 and 2018, going from 34,243 to 30,606.
What About the Rest?
That accounts for 28 of South Carolina’s 46 counties, but what about the remaining 18?
These counties have had net growth in that time but have seen population losses in recent years. For some counties, it’s not too concerning: Cherokee County lost just 27 people from 2017 to 2018, and had a net gain of 20,287 since 1970. Likewise, Edgefield County has had a net gain of 11,360, but saw a dip in numbers between 2010 and 2016.
But others look like they’re beginning to see a steady downward trend. Marion County has had a net growth of 769 from 1970 to 2018, going from 30,270 to 31,039. But it’s actually lost over 4,000 people since a high of 35,466 in 2000, and has been steadily losing people since 2010. Similarly, Orangeburg went from a high of 92,501 in 2010 to 86,934 in 2018 – a loss of 5,567 people – and has been on the decline, despite an overall gain of 17,145 from 1970.
This story is repeated in several other counties, though to a lesser degree. Abbeville, Barnwell, Calhoun, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Fairfield, Florence, Hampton, McCormick, and Sumter Counties have all seen population declines over the last several years.
Whether these 18 counties are headed for continued decline can’t be predicted, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
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