The year 2015 marked a significant turning point in national demographics. The number of millennials (born 1980 to 1999) exceeded the number of baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) for the first time ever in the United States. Of the nation’s population, millennials comprise 27 percent, with baby boomers now trailing slightly at 25 percent. Not to be forgotten, gen Xers (born 1979 to 1965) who are wedged between the two larger generations, now account for 19 percent of the total population. And while those born after 1999 (less than 15 years old) still haven’t earned their own generational title, they also make up 19 percent of the nation’s current population, with the remaining 10 percent held by those born before 1946 (70 years and older). So, are the millennials coming to the Asheville metropolitan area?
In many ways millennials represent the future. Retaining and attracting millennials will play a critically important role in the economic health and long-term viability of many communities. Gen Xers, who represent stable mid-career workers, will also be increasingly vital to businesses and industries that demand an experienced and skilled workforce.
In percent terms, North Carolina’s current age profile mirrors the nation. However, the Asheville metro four member counties (Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Haywood) each have their own distinct age compositions (see graphic on next page). The Asheville metro area as a whole, consists of 28 percent baby boomers followed by 23 percent millennials. The metro also has a larger 70 years and older population at 14 percent compared to the nation and state’s 10 percent. Similarly, at 16 percent, the share of population younger than 15 years old is lower in Asheville than in the nation and state, both at 19 percent. Gen Xers are consistently at 19 percent nationally, statewide and for the Asheville metro area as a whole.
Among individual metro counties, Buncombe and Madison have the largest relative proportions of millennials, each comprising 25 percent of its population. Henderson has the lowest share at 20 percent. Baby boomers are the largest demographic group in all four counties. Haywood leads the boomers at 30 percent followed closely by Henderson and Madison, each with 29 percent. Seventeen percent of Henderson County is 70 years and older, which is 7 percentage points greater than in the nation or state.
2015 Percent Total Population by Generations & Age Groups
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
While examining the current generational composition is important, perhaps more critical is the trend. Are millennials or gen Xers being attracted, retained or lost? Comparing the number of residents in each generation between the years 2010 and 2015 shows the latest trend.
Over the last five years, all four counties comprising the Asheville metro have added millennials (see chart below). Buncombe County added 5,347 millennials, a 9.2 percent increase, far outpacing the other counties. Three counties experienced increases in the number of gen Xers, while Madison saw a minor loss. The metro is still an attraction to baby boomers; Henderson takes the lead by adding 2,507 persons, up 8.3 percent.
2010 to 2015 Net Population Change of Generations
Asheville Metro Counties
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Compared to the experiences of the other 96 counties in the state, Asheville’s attraction of millennials is even more impressive. Between 2010 and 2015, 65 North Carolina counties saw net losses in the number of millennials. Similarly, 63 counties lost gen Xers over the same period. In fact, only 22 of the state’s 100 counties added both millennials and gen Xers; three of which are in the Asheville metro area.
So are the millennials coming? Recent data shows all of Asheville metro’s four counties are attracting millennials and three are also attracting gen Xer’s. This trend should prove valuable to Asheville metropolitan area’s economic health and future.
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