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South Carolina is growing thanks, in part, to reverse migration

More people are migrating to the South for better opportunity.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — More people are moving to the South, and leaving northern cities behind. 

According to recent Census data, South Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country.

In 2019, Census estimates showed South Carolina's population was more than 5.1 million people. A decade earlier, in 2010, there were more than 4.6 million people in South Carolina. 

According to South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics (SCORS), the state joins many other southern states in seeing rapid growth. Frank Rainwater with SCORS said this is mainly due to migration to the South. 

“Migration is a big factor in our growth. The migration population increased five times faster than the natural population," Rainwater said.

He adds that there are more migrants in South Carolina than there are native residents. 

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This is mass movement is comparable to the Great Migration that began shortly after Reconstruction in 1910 and lasted through the 1970s. 

Assistant Director Nancy Tolton at the USC African American Studies Department said Black people are returning South for the same reasons their ancestors ventured North. 

“The reason why they were doing it, especially in the beginning, was Jim Crow. They were very poor, economic, the mistreatment of Blacks was just horrendous and employment was few and far between," Tolton said.

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Rainwater said the South provides better economic options than northern states.

“The South is a cheaper place to live and the climate, I think, is better than a lot of northern states, and it provides a lot of opportunities for people coming back here,” he said. 

Beyond economic opportunity, Tolton said Black people are finding their way home.

“I think it’s the opportunity, but it’s also the awakening of knowing that wherever we are, we are. I guess I’m part of that because I’m here from living in the north,” Tolton said. 

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Rainwater said while South Carolina is seeing a boost, it's not in all of the counties. Most growth is happening in more urban counties like Sumter, Lexington and Richland counties. 

Out of the 11 counties in the Midlands, the area with the slowest growth according to the Census is Bamberg County. 

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