Over the last decade, the percentage of North Carolina's population that was born out of state has grown steadily. A listener recently asked: Can North Carolina still be considered Southern?

For the latest installment of Carolina Curious, WFDD's DJ Simmons looked into demographic changes in the state, and what has helped it to maintain its Southern identity.

Around 100 years ago, nearly all North Carolinians were natives. As of last year, more than 45% of residents were born out of state, according to data from Carolina Demography.

Carolina Demography Director Nathan Dollar says this growth has not been distributed equally. Instead, it's being seen largely in the state's urban centers.

"People are moving to places like Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill and Charlotte because there's jobs that pay well," he says. "And so that's typically the biggest attraction for people moving from other places."

Dollar says before World War II the state was largely isolated from outsiders. The trend of migration to North Carolina started after the war ended and the state started to industrialize.

But according to the Office of State Budget and Management, North Carolina has the second largest rural population in the country, even as its urban centers grow.

North Carolina State University professor Walt Wolfram says these smaller communities remain Southern. He leads the Language and Life Project, a nonprofit that studies dialects and culture in North Carolina.

"Lots of these small communities like where they live, they want their kids to be raised there and know their neighbors," he says. "And so they still have a strong affinity to the south."

Wolfram says in a lot of the state's more rural areas, being Southern is an advantage.

"There's kind of a kinship that sort of relates to people who've been in the community and continue to be in the community as opposed to the outsiders," he says.

Wolfram says cultural traditions ranging from language, to what people eat, to where and how they live, is why North Carolina should still be considered Southern.

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