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Editorial: Census results positive for Rowan County

The U.S. Census, conducted every 10 years, is likely the most important, regular data collection project in the country.

With just a little data from people, it can tell the public about population changes in states, counties and neighborhoods.

Here are things data released last week tells us about Rowan County as well as its cities and towns:

• The county’s population grew at a healthy rate of 6%, with some pretty wide variations within its borders.

In the southern portion of the county, population growth was strongest, led by towns and cities such as China Grove, Landis and Kannapolis. Growth was healthy in Rockwell, too, where the population increased by 9.20%.

Besides Kannapolis, which splits two counties, the number of new residents was greatest in Salisbury — 1,878. But Salisbury is the largest city in Rowan County. So, the percentage of growth, 5.58%, isn’t as large as it would be in a smaller town.

The fastest growing town in Rowan County, China Grove could grow to 5,500 people by 2030 if it keeps up the same rate — 24.45%.

• Rowan County is more diverse than it was in 2010 due in large part to an increase in the percentage of people who identified as two or more races.

While 69.9% of Rowan Countians identify as white today, the same statistic was 76.5% in 2010.

Those who are two or more races increased from 1.6% in 2010 to 6.7% in 2020.

From about 4.3% to 6.1%, a greater portion of the county’s population also is “some other race,” according to U.S. Census data. People who are Hispanic or Latino comprise 10.9% of the population today compared to 7.7% 10 years ago.

Data show 15.7% of the county’s population is Black or African American compared to 16.2% in 2010.

Asian Rowan Countians comprise the same portion of the population as 10 years ago, about 1%.

• Cleveland was the only municipality in Rowan County that saw its population decline, but the Census tract that contains the town grew by 1%.

The percentage of population decline is relatively small. So, it shouldn’t be too concerning that Cleveland’s size decreased by 25 people.

East Spencer saw a population decline from the 2000 to the 2010 Census, but the 2020 Census showed a population increase of 33 people, about 2.15%. The town’s population is still below previous decades, but potential abounds in the future. In 1950, there were 2,444 people living in East Spencer. It could easily grow back to that number this decade or the next.

• Whether people are moving here is just part of a community’s population growth. People need places to live.

Countywide, there were 2,989 new housing units added from 2010 to 2020, a 5% increase. With apartments just completed, under construction or planned and new single-family housing developments popping up around the county, Rowan should easily top that number by 2030. Any units not completed by April 2020 likely weren’t counted in data released last week.

Census data also doesn’t show types and prices of housing added. It’s critical that people are able to live in places they can comfortably afford and that they aren’t forced into housing that consumes a too-large portion of their income.

• The percentage of housing units not occupied in Rowan County is 9.1%, which is better than the state average (11.6%).

There’s still data to sift through, but elected leaders and other county officials should look at the 2020 Census results as positive because of progress in the previous decade and the potential for more.

As growth spreads out from the city of Charlotte, people will choose to live in Salisbury and Rowan County, which means new and unique businesses, more tax revenue for local governments to fund services and a better quality of life.

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