Rural Pee Dee Counties See Population Decline Over Last Decade

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – In Horry County, new homes, roads and faces are moving in to make the Myrtle Beach area home.

This is reflected in the latest census tally, which shows Sorry County grew 30.4% from 2010 to 2020 – the fastest growing of the two Carolinas.

But there is another story going on in many rural counties.

“There is a real bifurcation and a real divide in the country between counties that are growing and those that have lost population since 2010,” said Marc Perry, senior demographer for the US Census Bureau. “So it’s actually a slight majority of counties that have lost people this decade, which has been a big change.”

This division can be seen directly in the News13 area, in the Pee Dee and Border Belt.

Darlington and Marlboro counties each lost about 8% of their population over the 10-year period. Marion and Dillon counties each lost about 12% and Robeson County lost about 13%.

“Over the past decade, we’ve had a few fewer births each year and a few more deaths each year,” Perry explained. “A lot of rural counties don’t get much migration at all – and once you’ve kind of got into that equation, a county goes from a small gain to a small loss.”

Perry added that for many rural areas it is difficult to keep young people.

“They are leaving for the army or for university,” he said.

For Jaydon Deese of Pembroke, it was the first option.

“It was a revelation,” Deese said of his move to Colorado for the military. “People always laugh at me because I see tall buildings or something, oh my God look at that.”

After growing up in Robeson County, Deese enjoys being near a big city like Denver.

“Being able to walk around and listen to live music and everything every night is nice,” he said. “One thing I miss in Robeson County is you can drive down the road and see your uncle or cousin.”

That’s what Jessie Spivey loves about Lake View, where he has lived most of his life. He wants to see the city grow and start a new business, despite the departure of others.

“I would say probably 80% of my graduating class are not here anymore,” he said. “They are moving because there aren’t a lot of jobs here. It is a small city. And there just aren’t a lot of opportunities to make a lot of money here.

Marleen Lane owns several businesses in County Dillon. She said she knows many people who have left the area and believes many are leaving due to crime issues.

“There are quite a few people I grew up with, a lot of them moved to the beach,” she said. “Because there is more to offer there, more to offer your family. “

People who move can impact the bottom line.

“Every time you start losing people, you start losing taxpayer dollars, that’s how we operate,” said Dillon County Councilor Jamal Campbell. “What I’m really struggling with in my mind is how we really lost 10%, or people didn’t take filling out these census forms seriously.”

Meanwhile, some communities like Nichols and Lake View have noticed a surge in interest since last year’s census.

“We have noticed that there have been a number of properties sold – people are moving into the area,” said Dennis Townsend, Mayor of Lake View. “A lot of these are people who come from the north. I really see Lake View starting to grow.


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