1 million ... 1 million and 1 ... 1 million and 2 – Wake’s population just keeps growing

08/22/2014 6:15 PM

08/22/2014 11:14 PM

Anderson Grace Hughes was the youngest of a million, for about 14 minutes after she arrived at WakeMed on Friday. Then the title passed to the newborn son of Shobha Sridhar and Sridhar Narasimhan, just across town at Rex Hospital.

The infants were thrust into the media spotlight soon after their births, publicized by competing hospitals as the kids who pushed Wake County to 1 million residents.

Even while the grandparents of Anderson Hughes waited to see her after her 11:36 a.m. birth, texts and emails piled in from long-lost friends and total strangers.

It’s impossible to say whether any of Friday’s births – or say, an adult moving into the county – made Wake hit the million mark. But it’s hard to argue with a cute baby.

Anderson is the daughter of a physical therapist and a manager for Biogen Idec – representing two of the region’s largest labor sectors. She’ll join two older siblings in Holly Springs. “We thought we were just having a baby today,” said Jamie Hughes, the child’s father.

The parents gave their first interview only two hours past Anderson’s birth – a perfect opportunity for a proud dad to spread the word and a slightly tired mother to come along for the ride. “I’m not much for attention,” Whitney Hughes said, smiling warmly with her swaddled, red-faced little girl.

“I hid her cellphone from her, so she wouldn’t see all the texts,” her husband said.

It was a quieter scene at Rex. Only the parents and their young daughter were at the hospital for the birth of a son, who hasn’t been named yet. Shobha Sridhar and Sridhar Narasimhan just moved to Raleigh in May from Bangalore, India.

“It’s a big day,” the father said, a crying baby drawing him away from the phone. “Everyone is excited.”

They’ve come for his job in asset management, and they’re ready for the long haul. The Wake Tech Foundation has offered both children scholarships to Wake Technical Community College.

Run the numbers

So, what put these couples in the spotlight? A bit of arithmetic.

The county contracted with the Carolina Population Center at UNC to work up some population statistics this summer, and the million-mark estimation was part of the package.

To estimate the date, demographer Becky Tippett compared the 2010 census population figure for Wake – obtained by actually counting people – with the 2013 population estimate for the county, which the federal government extrapolates using various data about who’s coming and going, being born and dying.

Figuring out the average estimated growth per day can yield a pretty narrow estimate – noon on a Friday – but it’s not particularly accurate.

“Migration’s really bumpy,” Tippett said. The million mark “probably happened last week, when all the N.C. State students moved in.”

In fact, Wake sees more new arrivals by moving truck than birth on a given day.

Births in Raleigh make up only about 18 percent of the county’s population growth on an average day. The county sees an estimated net increase of 40 people per day.

Demographic trends

The county’s new data can break down those migration patterns in detail, and a new report is scheduled to do just that. While big, round numbers make a great publicity moment, demographic trends can, for example, guide the deployment of new government services.

“What it does for them is put more concrete numbers onto the data – not just how many people they’re gaining, but how many people are moving in and out,” Tippett said.

“You’re having a lot more people needing to interact with government and institutions, needing to do business in Wake County.”

Mecklenburg County beat Wake to a million by nearly a year, according to one estimate. Wake has the second-highest population among North Carolina counties – third place goes to Guilford County, which has only just cleared 500,000.

A fact of life

Dr. Joel Bernstien and nurse Alicia Shaddix, who delivered Anderson, might be part of eight deliveries in a typical day, a contributor to Wake’s growth that shows no signs of slowing, either.

Growth has been constant for decades, and the million mark served as a reminder of jammed highways and new subdivisions covering open spaces.

All the same, the congratulations were still coming late into the afternoon Friday.

These kids are, after all, ones in a million.

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