With two thirds of North Carolina's population residing in the middle one third of its landmass, the middle third of the state is about four times more densely populated than the remaining two thirds. Change in population from 2000 to 2009, using census estimates. Note the large-scale area of net population loss in the inland northeastern part of the state; these counties are all related to each other in that they contain the highest percentage of blacks, according to the Census 2000 data.
The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2008, estimated North Carolina's population at 9,222,414, which represents an increase of 1,175,914, or 14.6%, since the last census in 2000. This exceeds the rate of growth for the United States as a whole. The growth comprises a natural increase since the last census of 412,906 people (that is 1,015,065 births minus 602,159 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 783,382 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 192,099 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 591,283 people. Between 2005 and 2006, North Carolina passed New Jersey to become the 10th most populous state. The state's population reported as under 5 years old was 6.7%, 24.4% were under 18, and 12.0% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.
North Carolina has three major Metropolitan Combined Statistical Areas with populations of more than 1 million (U.S. Census Bureau 2010 estimates):
• The Metrolina: Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC - population 2,358,289
• The Triangle: Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC- population 1,690,557
• The Piedmont Triad: Greensboro—Winston-Salem—High Point, NC - population 1,603,101
North Carolina has nine municipalities with populations of more than 100,000 (U.S. Census Bureau 2009 estimates):
• Charlotte: Mecklenburg County - population 687,456
• Raleigh: Wake County - population 392,552
• Greensboro: Guilford County - population 250,642
• Winston-Salem: Forsyth County - population 227.834
• Durham: Durham County - population 223,800
• Fayetteville: Cumberland County - population 174,091
• Cary: Wake County - population 134,545
• High Point: Guilford County - population 101,835
• Wilmington: New Hanover County - population 100,192
Racial makeup and population trends
In 2007, the U.S. Census estimated that the racial makeup of North Carolina was as follows: 70% White American, 25.3% African-American, 1.2% American Indian, and the remaining 6.5% are Hispanic or Latino (of any race). North Carolina has historically been a rural state, with most of the population living on farms or in small towns. However, over the last 30 years the state has undergone rapid urbanization, and today most of North Carolina's residents live in urban and suburban areas, as is the case in most of the United States. In particular, the cities of Charlotte and Raleigh have become major urban centers, with large, diverse, mainly affluent and rapidly growing populations. Most of this growth in diversity has been fueled by immigrants from Latin America, India, and Southeast Asia.
African Americans make up nearly a quarter of North Carolina's population. The number of middle-class blacks has increased since the 1970s. African Americans are concentrated in the state's eastern Coastal Plain and in parts of the Piedmont Plateau, where they had historically worked and where the most new job opportunities are. African-American communities number by the hundreds in rural counties in the south-central and northeast, and in predominantly black neighborhoods in the cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.
The state has a rapidly growing proportion of Asian Americans, specifically those of Indian and Vietnamese descent; these groups nearly quintupled and tripled, respectively, between 1990 and 2002, as people arrived in the state for new jobs in the growing economy. Recent estimates suggest that the state's Asian-American population has increased significantly since 2000.
Settled first, the coastal region attracted primarily English immigrants of the early migrations, including indentured servants transported to the colonies and descendants of English who migrated from Virginia. In addition, there were waves of Protestant European immigration, including the British, many Scots Irish, French Huguenots, and Swiss Germans who settled New Bern; many Pennsylvania Germans came down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on the Great Wagon Road and settled in the western Piedmont and the foothills of the Blue Ridge. There is a high concentration of Scots-Irish in western North Carolina. A concentration of Welsh (usually included with others from Britain and Ireland) settled east of present Fayetteville in the 18th century. For a long time the wealthier, educated planters of the coastal region dominated state government.
Since 1990 the state has seen an increase in the number of Hispanics/Latinos. Once chiefly employed as migrant labor, Hispanic residents of the 1990s and early 2000s have been attracted to low-skilled jobs that are the first step on the economic ladder. As a result, growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants are settling in the state.
North Carolina has the highest American Indian population of states on the East Coast. The estimated population figures for Native Americans in North Carolina (as of 2004) is 110,198. To date, North Carolina recognizes eight Native American tribal nations within its state borders. Those tribes are the Coharie, Eastern Band of the Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Sappony, Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and Waccamaw-Siouan.