New census figures show growth in Chester, Montgomery counties

Chester and Montgomery counties added more new residents in the past four years than almost any other of the state’s 67 counties, growing at rates above 2 percent, far above the state average of 0.7 percent, according to newly released U.S. Census figures.

Of the 84,325 new residents in Pennsylvania between April 2010 and July 2014, an estimated 30,622 were located in Chester and Montgomery counties, a full 36 percent of the state’s total population growth over the period.

Montgomery County’s 816,857 residents make it the 72nd largest county in the United States, while Chester County’s growth of 2.7 percent, from 499,146 to 512,784 residents, makes it the third-fastest growing county in the state, behind only Cumberland County and Centre County. Just behind Chester County’s growth rate is that of neighboring Lancaster County, which boasts 533,320 residents — a gain of 13,872 people in the four year span.

But dwarfing them all — stand back, all you “suburban flight” aficionados — is the city of Philadelphia.

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Far from losing population during the period, as cities across the county seem to be doing, Philadelphia actually gained more than the combined new residents in its suburban neighbors, Chester and Montgomery. The city’s population grew from 1,526,006 in 2010 to an estimated 1,560,297 in 2014, an increase of 34,291 new residents. Its growth rate was a healthy 2.2 percent, just above Montgomery County’s 2.1 percent.

Those studying population trends over the past few years take this as no surprise, given the attitude of Philadelphia residents towards their city.

A new poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts, for instance, found that Philadelphians have a more positive outlook about their city than at any time in the six years that Pew has been polling, according to the survey.

Nearly half of residents surveyed said Philadelphia is heading in the right direction, while a third said it is on the wrong track. Sixty-seven percent expect the city to improve in the next five years, while 18 percent expect it to get worse. Three times as many residents would recommend Philadelphia to a friend as a place to live as would not. And young adults see themselves as more likely to build their futures in the city than in the last Pew Philadelphia Poll, which was taken in the summer of 2013.

Rating the city as a place to live, 70 percent would recommend it to a friend and 24 percent would not. Here, too, the percentage of people giving the positive response is the highest in six years of polling.

A look at the U.S. census figures in Pennsylvania county population growth over the four years was released last week by the Pennsylvania State Data center in Harrisburg.

It found that the fast growing regions of the state were the southeastern and south-central regions, including Chester, Montgomery and Lancaster counties.

Eight of the top 10 counties in percent population growth were located in those regions.

Overall, 42 counties experienced population loss during the period.

The increase in population came from two factors — the outpacing of births in the state to deaths — 604,903 births to 539,878 deaths — and the migration of people into the state and its counties. Chester County had the third greatest natural population increase behind Philadelphia and Lancaster, while Montgomery County had the second highest number of new residents moving in from other places.