FINDS U.S. COASTAL AREAS BECOMING MORE DENSELY POPULATED
31, 2005 — Although coastal areas only comprise 17 percent of the
contiguous land area, as of 2003 they were populated by more than half
(53 percent) of the nation’s population. This and other coastal
population information can be found in the newly released NOAA report
Trends Along the Coastal United States: 1980-2008.” The report,
released on March 1, 2005, provides an overview of coastal population
trends from 1980 to 2003 and projected change in coastal population by
in the United States are home to a wealth of natural and economic resources
and include some of the most developed areas in the nation. Although population
increase and coastal development produce numerous economic benefits (e.g.,
employment, recreation and tourism, waterborne commerce and energy/mineral),
they also may result in the loss of critical habitat, green space and
biodiversity. When coastal ecosystems are pressured by population growth,
they are more vulnerable to pollution, habitat degradation and loss, overfishing,
invasive species and increased coastal hazards. Ironically, the qualities
that make them so desirable are the very ones that have led to their endangerment
provides coastal resource managers and stakeholders with information to
enhance coastal management decision-making. Key findings in this report
are highlighted below.
COASTAL POPULATION TRENDS
U.S. population continues to grow in already densely populated coastal
areas. The total coastal population between the years 1980 and 2003 increased
by 33 million people (or 28 percent), roughly consistent with the nation’s
rate of increase.
ratio of coastal county population to the population of the United States
as a whole has remained relatively stable since 1980, coastal county populations
are not growing significantly faster than non-coastal population, but
rather, it is the continued population growth in the limited land area
of coastal counties that is of growing importance and the focus of increasing
attention. This increasing density, coupled with the fast growing economy
of coastal areas will make the task of managing coastal resources increasingly
difficult, especially with the nation’s coastal population expected
to increase by more than 7 million by 2008 and 12 million by 2015.
and State Trends
coastal population within the Pacific region showed the largest gain between
1980 and 2003, with almost 12 million people, followed by the Northeast
with 8 million people. The Southeast region, however, exhibited the largest
rate of change with a 58 percent increase, followed by the Pacific at
46 percent, and the Gulf of Mexico at 45 percent.
has increasingly become a leading destination for retirees and job-seekers.
Between the years 1995 and 2000, the Census Bureau reported that the highest
levels of migration were to states that fall within the Southeast region
and the Gulf of Mexico region, particularly to Florida, Georgia and North
Carolina. In contrast, the lowest levels of migration were to states found
in the Northeast region.
had the largest absolute coastal population change, increasing by 9.9
million people, over twice the growth of any other state (with the exception
of Florida). Florida, on the other hand, showed the greatest percent coastal
population change between 1980 and 2003, reaching nearly 75 percent.
Population in Coastal Counties
Populated Coastal Counties: Of the 10 coastal counties that
experienced the greatest increases in population from 1980 to 2003,
six are in California, three are in Florida and one is in Texas. The
combined population increase of these 10 counties alone accounts for
30 percent of the coastal population growth during this period. Los
Angeles, Calif., had the highest growth overall, followed by Harris,
Texas, and Riverside, Calif. It is projected that San Diego, Calif.,
will be the leading coastal county in population increase in the years
to come (2003-2008). It, along with Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside
counties, Calif., will account for 12 percent of the nation’s
expected total coastal population increase. Counties in South Florida
and Harris County, Texas, also are anticipated to experience major growth
during this period.
of Population Growth in Coastal Counties: The fastest rate
of change from 1980 to 2003 occurred in coastal counties found in Florida,
Alaska, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.
to Coastal Counties:
Florida has increasingly become a “retirement magnet,” a
migratory destination for retirees in recent decades. For example, the
largest state-to-state migration between 1995 to 2000 was from New York
to Florida. During that time period there also was an increase in migration
from coastal to non-coastal states (e.g., individuals in California
migrated to Nevada and Arizona).
Coastal counties (excluding Alaska) average 300 persons per square mile,
much higher than the national average of 98 persons. New York City’s
counties are the most densely populated in the nation, averaging almost
39,000 persons per square mile. Since 1980, population density has increased
in coastal counties by 65 persons per square mile (or 28 percent). By
2008, it is expected to increase by another 13 persons per square mile
(or 4 percent).
Along the Coast
In 2000, coastal counties contained 52 percent of the nation’s
total housing supply, led by California, Florida and New York, which
comprised 41 percent of the coastal county total.
In 2000, there were approximately 2.1 million seasonal homes in coastal
counties, 54 percent of the nation’s total, led by Florida, with
24 percent, and followed by Michigan, California and New York. Several
coastal counties with low populations have also emerged as popular seasonal/vacation
destinations. There are large numbers of seasonal homes in Maine, the
Outer Banks of North Carolina, northern Michigan, Maryland and Delaware.
From 1999 to 2003, the leading states in single-family unit construction
were found in all five regions. Florida and California combined made
up 37 percent of all permits issued for single-family units and 42 percent
of all multi-family units in coastal counties.
of the Coastal Population
of Coastal Residents:
Between 1980 and 2000, the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups (i.e., the Baby
Boom generation) increased significantly as a share of the total coastal
population — from 21 percent to 30 percent. At the same time,
the proportion of younger adults aged 18-24 fell from 13 percent to
9 percent. These numbers are relatively consistent with the national
average. Although the data do not show any great change over the years
in the 65-and-older age group (which increased its share of the coastal
population by about one percent between 1980 and 2000) the number of
Americans entering that age group in the upcoming decades is of growing
of Coastal Residents: Coastal counties whose residents make
the most amount of money (median household income greater than $58,000)
appear to surround, are adjacent to, or are within commuting distance
of large cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los
Angeles and San Francisco. Coastal counties exhibiting the lowest median
household income (less than $34,000), on the other hand, tend to be
found in more rural areas (particularly in the Southeast and Gulf of
Mexico regions). On average, coastal counties have a higher median household
income than non-coastal counties, differing by almost 17 percent.
BY COASTAL WATERSHED
an attempt to provide population information in geographic units that
may be more useful to coastal managers and planners, NOAA also produced
population estimates for coastal watersheds within the contiguous United
States. Unlike county and state lines, which are defined by political
boundaries, watersheds are defined by natural geology and hydrology.
in paradigm continues to take place, moving away from management based
on jurisdictional boundaries and toward an ecosystem-based management
approach to increases in coastal population, urban sprawl and their interactions
with sensitive coastal ecosystems. The Administration's U.S. Ocean Action
Plan highlighted the need to manage coastal resources in the framework
of the watersheds that affect them, ultimately recognizing the crucial
connection between coastal and upland areas and societal needs,"
said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad
C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and
atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
to the NOAA report:
- The total
population of coastal watersheds in 2000 was approximately 127 million
people (or 45 percent) of the national population. This represents a
growth of 24 million people since 1980.
- Five of
the 10 most populated watersheds are located from southern Virginia
to New England.
change from 1980 to 2000 was greatest in the Chesapeake Bay, which grew
by more than 2 million. It was closely followed by San Francisco Bay
and San Pedro Bay, Calif.
- Of the
10 most populated coastal watersheds, the greatest percent population
changes are found in the Southeast and Pacific regions. The populations
in St. Johns River, Fla.; Cape Canaveral, Fla. and Santa Ana, Calif.,
all grew by more than 70 percent.
and coastal managers are confronted with the daily task of finding a balance
between benefiting from economic growth and mitigating the effects of
this growth on coastal environments. Although this task will become ever
more challenging as the coastal population continues to grow in a limited
space, NOAA has (and will continue) to meet this challenge.
NOAA Ocean Service
Special Projects Office
Coastal and Ocean Resource Economics Page
Powell, NOAA Ocean Service,
(301) 713-3066 ext. 191 or Ben Sherman,
NOAA Ocean Service, (301) 713-3066