Whether by jet plane, the maternity ward or behind the wheel of a U-Haul, Wake County’s 1 millionth resident arrived on Friday, Aug. 22.
The milestone was the inevitable result of a growth spurt that began in the 1960s. The founding of Research Triangle Park in 1959 and the arrival of IBM in 1965 started an influx of people that spawned the new suburbs of Cary and North Raleigh, said Ernest Dollar, executive director of the City of Raleigh Museum.
“It really changed the entire landscape around Raleigh – culturally, socially and economically,” Dollar said.
Wake’s population had grown in fits and starts since the first census takers counted 10,198 residents in 1790. But since 1960, the county’s population grew an average of nearly 40 percent a decade, more than twice the rate before then.
Wake had 169,082 residents in 1960; Cary and Morrisville combined have about that many people today. In 1960, the census classified about 37 percent of Wake’s population as rural; in 2010, it was 6 percent.
With more people have come changes. The county’s population has become more racially and ethnically diverse, more affluent and more educated. About 13 percent of us were born in another country, compared with less than 1 percent in 1960.
Back then, the racial breakdown of the county was divided between blacks and whites, with only a few hundred residents listed as Native American or Asian; Hispanic wasn’t even counted in the census then. Today, more than 6 percent of us are Asian and about 10 percent are Hispanic.