Twin Cities, Jonesborough post region’s best 2019-2020 population stats

The Twin Cities added the most new residents from 2019 to 2020, while Jonesborough posted the highest growth rate, according to the latest Census population estimates.

Bristol VA led the region with a gain of 293 residents, and Bristol TN added 145 in the “as of July 1” estimates. The gains pushed the Twin Cities total population to 44,471.

Expect the numbers to change when the 2020 Census is released with the precise 2020 population numbers.

Six local cities and towns had year-over-year population gains in an area drill down. Tracking the year-over-year changes is typically a better trend indicator.

An earlier report on components of population change for the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) showed the region had an estimated net population gain of 953 people last year. That represents a 0.2% year-over-year growth and a total population of 512,723. The CSA includes Carter, Washington, Unicoi, Hawkins, and Sullivan counties in NE TN plus Scott and Washington counties in SW VA. That report can be found by CLICKING HERE. 

The numbers are surprising to some due to the wave of new residents moving here and requesting relocation information during the pandemic. That migration has been significant, and it continues. But so does the number of locals moving out of the area and a death rate that exceeds the birth rate. The births-deaths imbalance is what demographers call negative natural population growth. It also means attracting new residents is the only way to maintain or grow the region’s population. For much of the past decade, growth has been stagnant compared to the neighboring CSAs of Asheville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. That spurred an effort to reverse the situation with better regional cooperation to grow the population, new jobs and the economy.

When the 2020 estimates are compared to the 2010 Census, Jonesborough and Kingsport had the highest growth rates. Jonesborough – 14.1% and Kingsport 12.3%. Only four of the 14 cities and towns in the drill-down had higher populations in 2020 than in 2010. They area: Johnson City, Bristol, TN, Kingsport, and Jonesborough.

The Model City maintained its growth position in the 2011 year-over-year tracking with an 8.3% increase. But that changed in 2012 when it recorded its first of four annual population declines. There were gains – especially in 2017 and 2018, but the growth slowed in 2019 and went negative in 2020.

Year-over-year growth was erratic in all cities and towns except Johnson City. The region’s largest city has seen consistent year-over-year gains – even though some were as small as 0.1%.

For those working to attract new residents, the process often seems like the punishment of Sisyphus when the net population numbers are released. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was punished for misdeeds by having to roll a huge boulder endlessly up a steep hill.

Although precise numbers on who the region’s new residents are and where they are coming from aren’t currently available, thanks to organizations charged with attracting them, there are some indicators.

The number of West Coast residents from California and Washington state has increased to supplement those from the Northeast and Florida. According to Census data, most residents who are not local natives come from other counties in Tennessee.

Some have expressed concerns that the flood of new residents will “bring the cultures and problems” of the states they are leaving to Tennessee. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to reports from those who talk to the new residents. They are relocating because they want to get away from the areas where they have been overtaxed and over-regulated.

That aligns with research by journalist Bill Bishop for articles and a book “The Big Sort.” The research points to how “Americans have been sorting themselves over the past three decades into homogeneous communities — not at the regional level, or the red-state/blue-state level, but at the micro-level of city and neighborhood.”

Recreation, retirement, and the ability to work from anywhere are some of the primary reasons new residents are moving to the area.

From a demographic perspective, the wave of new residents that local civic and government officials are working to sustain is also increasing the region’s median family income and education levels of the region – factors businesses and retailers study when planning to locate or expand their services.

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