10-year population growth anemic in Northeast Tennessee, census shows

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Growth by city: Kingsport 15%, Johnson City 12.5%, Bristol 1.7%

Washington County grows 8.1%, no other county more than 2%

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – What people expected is finally official: Northeast Tennessee experienced very little population growth over the past decade.

The official results will likely mean fewer state dollars flowing to the region as faster-growing areas, particularly in Middle Tennessee, benefit from the new data.

Northeast Tennessee grew much more slowly than the state as a whole and the nation, U.S. Census figures released Thursday show.

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday show the seven-county Northeast Tennessee portion of News Channel 11’s viewing area added 10,822 people from 2010 to 2020. That signified a growth rate of just 2.2%, not even a quarter of Tennessee’s statewide growth rate of 8.9%.

The United States grew by 7.1% during the last decade to reach 331 million people.

The combined population of Sullivan, Washington, Greene, Hawkins, Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties is now 510,269.

The lower rate of growth regionally will impact political redistricting for both federal and statewide offices.

And according to the Tennessee State Data Center at the University of Tennessee, each person added or subtracted from a community in Tennessee has a $153 annual impact on state-share revenue distribution.

The lion’s share of that growth in Tennessee, which saw its population grow by 564,735, came around the Nashville metro area, followed by the Knoxville and Chattanooga metros.

Washington County’s 2010-2020 population growth far outpaced that of the other Northeast Tennessee counties.

The vast majority of Northeast Tennessee’s growth came in Washington County, which saw its population grow by 10,022, or 8.1%. Greene (1.9%) and Sullivan (0.9%) were the only other counties that saw increases.

Carter County lost the most people, dropping by 1,068 to 56,356. Unicoi County had the largest percentage drop, 2.1%, giving it 20 fewer people than Johnson County.

Johnson and Hawkins counties also lost population.

The region had grown at a rate closer to the state’s in the 2000-2010 period, when it gained 6.6% to the state’s 10.4%.

Most incorporated towns, cities grew

The region’s cities and towns generally experienced some growth.

Tusculum in Greene County grew by the largest percentage (23.8) to 3,298. Jonesborough grew 16 percent to 5,860.

Among the larger area cities, Kingsport grew by 15% to 55,442. The area’s largest city, Johnson City, added 12.5% to reach 71,046. Bristol grew by just 1.7 percent, to 27,147.

Erwin and Watauga were the area’s only two incorporated areas that lost population.

Area remains more than 90% white

The data include racial and ethnic breakdowns – and those show the region is still predominately white, with 90.2% of respondents identifying as “white alone.”

Only Washington County was less than 90% “white alone,” at 85.7%.

The other six counties ranged from a high of 93.7% white alone (Hawkins County) to 90.4% (Johnson County).

The region’s overall black population (not including multiracial) is 2.4%. Close to half those 12,446 people live in Washington County, which had the highest black percentage at 4.2%. Only 0.2 percent of Unicoi County’s population identified as black.

Washington County also had the highest percentage of people who identified as being multiracial — 6.1%. The other counties ranged from 5.1% (Unicoi) down to 3.6% (Johnson). The region had a multiracial percentage of 4.9%.

Nearly 16,000 people identified as Hispanic, which totaled 3.1% of the regional population.

Unicoi County was highest at 6.2%, followed by Washington County at 4.6%.

Washington County also had the highest percentage of Asian residents at 1.5%. No other county had a rate above 0.8% and the region’s total was 0.8%.

In raw numbers, just over 19,000 Washington Countians identified as some race or ethnicity other than “white alone.” That was nearly 40% of the region’s total, with Sullivan County accounting for nearly 13,000 and Greene County for more than 6,000.

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