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Additional Information on Coastal Areas

Coastline counties along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts as well as the Hawaiian Islands account for nearly two-thirds of the nation's coastline population and are home to four of the nation's 10 most populous counties. These counties are also vulnerable to one of nature's biggest threats: hurricanes.

What is a coastal county?

As defined by the US Census Bureau: a coastal county has to be adjacent to water classified as either coastal water or territorial sea. There are 254 coastline counties, stretching across parts of 23 states and covering 561,435 square miles. Coastline counties are located in three coastline regions: the Atlantic (129 counties), Gulf of Mexico (56 counties), and Pacific (69 counties).

Population Growth in Coast Counties

The coastal population grew by 40 million people between 1960 and 2008, an 84.3% increase.
Year Coastal Population
1960 47.4 million
1970 56.7 million
1980 63.6 million
1990 73.0 million
2000 82.1 million
2008 87.4 million

Percentage Increases in Coast and Non-coastal Population by Time Period

Time Period Coastal Non-coastal
1960 to 1970 19.5 11.1
1970 to 1980 12.1 11.2
1980 to 1990 14.9 7.8
1990 to 2000 12.4 13.5
2000 to 2008 6.5 8.7

The overall population increased between 1960 and 2008 was 84.3% for coastal areas and 64.3% for non-coastal areas.

Demographic Components of Population Change: 2000 to 2008

The 5.3 million coastal population increase was due entirely to natural increase (births minus deaths) and international migration.
International migration +3.9 million
Domestic migration -3.5 million
Natural increase +4.5 million

Housing Units in Coastal

The number of housing units along the coastline increased in recent decades, from 16.1 million in 1960 to 36.3 million in 2008. During this period, the Atlantic coastline region gained the largest number of housing units (8.8 million), followed by the Pacific (6.8 million) and the Gulf of Mexico (4.5 million).

Between 1960 and 2008, the percentage increase in housing units along the coastline (126 percent) was greater than that of the United States (121 percent) or for non coastline counties (120 percent). Among the coastline regions, the total percentage increases in the Gulf of Mexico (246 percent) and the Pacific (130 percent) far outpaced the gains for the Atlantic region (98 percent).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census of Population and Housing: 1960 to 2000; Population Estimates Program: 2008.

Coastline Counties Most Frequently Hit by Hurricanes: 1960 to 2008

Rank County State Numbers of
Hurricanes
Percent Change
1960 to 2008
Percent Change
2000 to 2008
1 Monroe County FL 15 50.8 -9.2
2 Lafourche Parish LA 14 67.2 2.9
2 Carteret County NC 14 104.3 6.4
4 Dare County NC 13 465.9 12.1
4 Hyde County NC 13 -10.1 -11.1
6 Jefferson Parish LA 12 108.9 -4.2
6 Palm Beach County FL 12 454.7 11.9
8 Miami-Dade County FL 11 156.5 6.4
8 St. Bernard Parish LA 11 17.2 -43.9
8 Cameron Parish LA 11 4.8 -27.6
8 Terrebonne Parish LA 11 78.7 3.9

The 10 most intense hurricanes since 1960 affected nearly 51 million people living in coastline counties. If those same 10 hurricanes had struck in 2008, the coastline population affected would have been closer to 70 million. Coastline counties affected by Hurricane Katrina (2005) had an overall decrease in population (nearly 2 percent loss). The populations in coastline counties affected by Hurricanes Andrew (1992) had grown by more than 20 percent.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census Data & Emergency Preparedness | Last Revised: September 09, 2014