2020 Census: Lehigh Valley Ranks Among PA’s Fastest Growing Regions
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on August 16, 2021
Lehigh Valley’s population grew by 6.2% since 2010, making it among Pennsylvania’s fastest growing regions, according to recently released 2020 Census results.
The once-in-a-decade mandatory counting pegs the population in Lehigh and Northampton counties at 687,508, a gain of more than 40,000 residents in the last 10 years. Lehigh County in particular grew by 7.2%, making it the third fastest growing county in the state, and Northampton County ranked No. 9 with 5.1% population growth.
This comes as the U.S. population growth slowed to rates not seen since the Great Depression with most counties losing population since 2010, according to the U.S. Census. Lehigh and Northampton counties’ population growth ranked in the top 25% of all counties nationwide.
The nation’s growth hotspots were in the West and Southeast, making Lehigh Valley’s gains pop in the slower-growing Northeast. The Northeast grew by 4.1% and Pennsylvania by even less. Since 2010, Pennsylvania’s population rose by 2.4% to 13 million people – a growth rate that will cost the Keystone State a congressional seat.
Lehigh and Northampton counties are among only 23 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania where population increased since the 2010 Census. Most of those 23 growth counties are in the southeastern quadrant of Pennsylvania.
Lehigh Valley’s population increase coincides with the growth of its diverse economy. The balanced economy includes advanced manufacturers, including those in life sciences, that have pushed Lehigh Valley to become the nation’s 52nd largest manufacturing economy and to be among the nation’s busiest industrial markets. The region’s largest employers are in the health care industry, and two Fortune 500 companies call Lehigh Valley home.
In the five years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lehigh Valley added 27,000 jobs across a variety of occupations and industries, and in the decade since the last Census the region’s economic output has grown by 34% to $43.3 billion.
“The latest Census results confirm what LVEDC has been tracking for years: Lehigh Valley is growing because it is an attractive place to live, work and play,” said George Lewis, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Research. “Population growth and demographics are important information that companies consider when determining where they want to do business because it shows we have the talent they need.”
The Census is the basis for the distribution of federal dollars communities stand to receive for schools, roads, parks and bridges as well as political representation in Congress. LVEDC tracks Census reports continually and analyzes that data to determine the most effective ways it can market the region to attract and retain businesses.
The Census also releases annual population estimates, based on different methodology, that pointed at Lehigh Valley’s fast-paced growth, especially among the young adult population. The annual estimates show that the Lehigh Valley’s 18- to 34-year-old population grew by 10.7% over the last decade. That’s a greater rate than the region’s overall population growth and leads the state.
Lewis said LVEDC is paying close attention to the 2020 Census data that show the number of people younger than 18 decreased by 6% in Northampton County and stagnated in Lehigh County. That data confirms a trend LVEDC identified in its 2018 Talent Market study that could signal future work force challenges if Lehigh Valley doesn’t continue to attract residents and could represent a competitive advantage over other regions if the Lehigh Valley can continue to attract residents, he said.
Lehigh Valley’s population growth is driven by migration, previous population estimates show. Northampton County’s actually experienced more deaths than births but grew despite that because of the number of people moving into Lehigh Valley.
International migration, especially in Lehigh County, accounts for most of it. Lehigh County is in the top 1% of all U.S. counties for inward migration from international locations, according to a Select USA, a program of the U.S. Commerce Department.
Lehigh Valley’s population is also gotten more diverse, following the overall national demographic trends. A large boost was among the Hispanic community, which increased from 18.8% of Lehigh County’s population in 2010 to 25.9% in 2020 and from 10.5% of Northampton county’s population in 2010 to 14.3% in 2020.
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