Southeast Tennessee Development

Population & Demographics

Population Snapshot

The region’s population is growing. From 1990 to 2050, the region will have added approximately 364,000 people. According to data projections, the region’s population will increase by an average of 16 people per day for at least the next decade. It is worth noting that some communities may undergo periods of population decline—recent census estimates suggest that Dade, Grundy, Polk, and Walker Counties are losing population. However, long-term forecasts show most counties growing in population. Some of this increase is from natural growth (i.e. babies being born), while some is from migration into the region. Chattanooga and the surrounding region is proving to be a popular retirement destination, and we will likely see an influx of affluent retirees moving here. Others move here to raise families, find a job, or live in an area gifted with many natural features and outdoor recreational opportunities.

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Changing Demographics

Aging Population

The population is aging, both within our region and across the United States. In 2019, the senior population (ages 65+) in our region is 150,983. In the next 10 years that number will increase by 20% to 182,363. With changes in health care, medicine, nutrition, and overall longer life expectancy, the proportion of seniors in our population will climb from historical averages of 10-15% to new levels of 25-30%, with some places seeing even higher rates. Communities that ignore this demographic sea-change will face many challenges in the coming years. Those that acknowledge, embrace, and prepare for this population shift will benefit from retirees moving to their communities, improved health care systems, greater ADA accessibility, and more vibrant and engaged senior populations. Moreover, planning on the front-end will enable older adults to age in place near their families, friends, and neighbors—and live fulfilling lives in their golden years.

Rise of the Millennials

The U.S. Census Bureau defines Millennials as those born between 1982 and 2000. The 83.1 million individuals in this age group—19 to 37 years old as of 2019—now outnumber the 75.4 million Baby Boomers in the United States. By 2020, Millennials are expected to make up approximately half of the U.S. workforce.

From a social and economic standpoint, today’s young adults differ from previous generations in several ways. Whereas marriage and parenthood were once defining markers of adulthood, Millennials are more likely to view educational and economic accomplishments as adult milestones. They are getting married and having children later than their parents. According to the Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 Millennials have a bachelor’s degree—higher than any other age group. However, the Great Recession has created some lasting economic impacts on Millennials. One in three still lives at home. From 1975 to 2016, the proportion of young men with incomes less than $30,000 increased from 25% to 41%. During this same time, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43% to 14%. Approximately 2.2 million 25 to 34-year-olds live with their parents and do not work or attend school. Having come of with the internet and computers, Millennials are considered tech-savvy and digitally connected. In the workplace, Millennials place an emphasis on producing meaningful work, seek opportunities for creative outlet, and desire immediate feedback. Many prefer to work in team-oriented environments. Workplace dynamics—even the physical space—will likely evolve as Millennials increase their presence in the workplace and advance in their careers.