Winston-Salem’s population topped 250,000 in 2021, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 2020 census found the city just short of that mark, with an official tally of 249,545 as of April 1, 2020.
Reaching 250,000 may seem largely symbolic, but Keith Debbage, a geography professor at UNC Greensboro, said there are rankings that include cities with more than 250,000 that Winston-Salem could benefit from.
“Hopefully this will make the city appear in more rankings,” Debbage said.
The Census Bureau estimated the population of Winston-Salem at 250,320 as of July 1, 2021. This is nearly 1,000 more than the bureau’s estimate for the city on July 1, 2020.
Winston-Salem remained the fifth largest city in the state.
Despite reaching the new benchmark, population growth in Winston-Salem has been slow during the period between 2020 and 2021. The growth rate was around 0.4%, while the state’s population increased by almost 1%.
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Still, Winston-Salem grew faster than Greensboro (+0.15%) and High Point (+0.17%), the only other two cities in the Triad with populations over 100,000.
Debbage sees the anemic growth across most of the Triad as the product of a double whammy.
“Triad’s growth rates have historically been modest compared to our competitors on the I-85 corridor,” Debbage said. “Part of the problem with the pandemic is that you’ve seen dramatically reduced mobility rates in many places in America.”
This lack of mobility may have dampened growth rates in other North Carolina cities, such as Raleigh, which added more people than Winston-Salem during the year but actually grew to a slower pace.
From 2010 to 2021, however, the growth of Charlotte and the Triangle clearly outpaced that of the Triad: during this period, Durham alone grew by 25% and replaced Winston-Salem in 2012 as the fourth largest city. of State.
Greensboro’s estimated 2021 population was 298,263, while High Point’s population was estimated at 114,086.
Charlotte added around 3,000 people from 2020 to 2021 to reach an estimated total of 879,709, while Raleigh added around 1,700 people to reach 469,124. Durham had an estimated population of 285,527, having increased by almost 1,100 people from 2020 to 2021.
Among other places incorporated primarily or completely in Forsyth County, Kernersville gained about 350 to reach an estimated 2021 population of 26,793, while Clemmons gained about 350 to reach 21,517. Lewisville gained about 200. to reach an estimated population of 13,602.
Census Bureau estimates said the Triad location that added the most people in numbers from 2020 to 2021 was Burlington, the largest city in Alamance County. Burlington grew 2.1% and added some 1,200 people to reach an estimate of 58,818 in 2021.
Nearby Mebane, which straddles the line between Alamance and Orange counties, rose 3% to maintain its typical rank as the fastest-growing triad location.
The growth in Burlington and Mebane illustrates “a continued functional integration of the Triad and the Triangle,” Debbage said.
“I would say the eastern suburbs of Burlington are chosen by Triangle commuters,” Debbage said. “I’ve seen evidence of that.”
The same goes for Peter Bishop, the director of economic development in Burlington. People are looking for more affordable housing, he said, and more are coming from the east than the west.
“These people are starting to travel further west to find their future home,” he said. “We’ve also had significant job creation announcements.”
The Census Bureau is not the only player in the population estimate game. The Office of State Budget and Management in Raleigh produces its own estimates that local governments rely on for their official population counts. The OSBM’s latest estimate is that Winston-Salem had 249,986 as of July 1, 2020.
City officials pushed Winston-Salem over the 2020 250,000 line, when it listed the city’s population at 250,765. The city pegs the 2022 population at 252,175.
Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said reaching 250,000 is a benchmark that helps the city market itself.
“Granted, I think it’s something that’s not magic, but it’s meaningful to be able to say you’re at 250,000,” he said. “I think it helps us because we market the city in a number of ways.”