There were 19,741 households out of which 28.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.30% were married couples living together, 10.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.80% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the county the population was spread out with 22.50% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 30.40% from 25 to 44, 24.60% from 45 to 64, and 15.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.80 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $42,851, and the median income for a family was $50,909. Males had a median income of $32,980 versus $26,044 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,355. About 7.10% of families and 9.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.70% of those under age 18 and 12.00% of those age 65 or over.
In 1907 parts of Chatham County and Moore County were combined to form Lee County. The award winning PBS Documentary Family Name notes Chatham County as the place the relationship between the African-American and European-American branches of the Alston family originated George Moses Horton, Historic Poet Laureate of Chatham County, North Carolina (1797?-1883) lived most of his life in Chatham County and is among the few slaves to have published material while still a slave
Current Chatham County Board of Commissioners
Commissioners appoint a county manager who administers the day-to-day business of the county, including personnel and budget oversight. The Board of Commissioners also appoints the county attorney, clerk to the board of commissioners who is responsible for meeting agendas and minutes, and the tax administrator who manages all tax office functions, but they do not appoint other county staff positions.
The Board of Commissioners does have general authority over county policies, but several other boards have authority over specific policy areas, such as the Board of Health, Board of Social Services, Board of Elections and Soil and Water Conservation District Board. The Board of Commissioners appoints all members of the Board of Health and makes some of the appointments to the Board of Social Services, but neither the Board of Elections nor the Soil and Water District Conservation Board have any commissioner appointments.
Chatham County is a member of the regional Triangle J Council of Governments.
A Chatham County native, Joe Hackney is currently (2007-2008 session) serving his 14th term in the N.C. House of Representatives. He has served as speaker pro tem, house majority leader and house Democratic leader and was elected speaker of the house in January 2007. He is consistently rated by his peers as one of the ten most effective legislators, according to the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. He is president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Chatham County contributes funds to, but does not govern, K-12 public education and the community college system. The Chatham County School System is governed by its own elected board. There are three public high schools: Northwood in Pittsboro, Jordan-Matthews in Siler City, and Chatham Central in Bear Creek. A new high school is scheduled to be built on Jack Bennett Road in northeast Chatham by August 2011.
Central Carolina Community College, which has two campuses in the county, is governed by its own appointed Board of Trustees.
Generally, county resources provide only part of the total funding for K-12 and community colleges, but the county devotes a considerable amount of its resources to public education. In FY 2007-08, more than 39% of the county’s tax dollars went to education.
According to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners Annual Tax and Budget Survey for FY 2006-07, the county ranked 11th in the state in total spending per student and fifth in the percent of the current expense/general funds spent on schools per student. The county also was 14th in overall education resources per capita during FY 06-07.
The county lies totally within the Piedmont physiographic region. The topography of the county is generally gently rolling with several higher hills rising above the general terrain. One of these hills, Terrells Mountain, on the Orange County line is the transmitter site for several radio and tv stations for the Raleigh-Durham market, including WUNC-TV 4, WDCG(G105), WKSL (93.9 Kiss FM), and WUNC 91.5 FM (NC Public Radio).
The county lies within the Cape Fear River drainage basin. The Cape Fear River begins in the county near the community of Moncure, at the confluence of the Haw River and the Deep River below Jordan Lake. B. Everett Jordan Lake, a major reservoir and flood-control lake, is located within the New Hope River basin and lies mainly in eastern Chatham County. The lake is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is partially leased by the State of North Carolina as Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.
Industrial growth in the county has largely been focused around the Siler City and Moncure areas of the county. By far most of the industry in the county is set up around Moncure. Companies in that area include, Progress Energy, Weyerhauser, Honeywell, and ATC Panels.
Brick manufacturing has been an important economic factor in the Moncure area with several brick plants operating around the Moncure and Brickhaven communities.
3M also operates a greenstone mine south of Pittsboro along US 15-501. The mine takes greenstone and uses it to manufacture roofing shingle granules. In 2007, residents opposed to industrialization of the county successfully blocked a similar quarry from being built in the western part of the county.
The scenic rural environment has attracted many artists' studios (Chatham Artists Guild), and arts-related tourism is a growing economic influence.
The main east-west artery serving Chatham County is U.S. 64, which provides access to Siler City and Pittsboro. U.S. Routes 421 and 15-501 run in a north-south direction through the county; U.S. 421 serves Siler City and U.S. 15-501 serves Pittsboro. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the NCDOT invested more than one hundred million dollars upgrading U.S. 64, U.S. 421 and U.S. 15-501, which had previously been two-lane roads, to multi-lane highways. There is now a U.S. 64 bypass north of Pittsboro; a similar freeway diverts traffic on U.S. 421 east of Siler City.
According to the Land Use study released on March 7, 2007 by the Operations Research and Education Laboratory Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State there are to be a projected 19,000 new homes built in Chatham County by 2020.
Many large scale residential developments have been built over the past few years in the eastern and northern parts of the county as towns in Orange County, Durham County, and Wake County have been filling up and expanding outward into Chatham County. Many people are lured to Chatham County by its rural setting and by the cheaper tax base compared to other counties in the Triangle, although this is becoming less of an issue as taxes and property values increase.
Many residents feel that as the county grows and becomes developed that it will lose its rural charm and will become suburban. Some residents worry that incidents of crime and infrastructure strains will get worse. There has already been much criticism of local law enforcement agencies in the county for not growing adequately enough with the county, inadvertently leading to variable increases in crime.
On the other hand, some residents believe that growth benefits the county and will bring a much larger tax base to the historically rural county, which could fund increases in law enforcement and government services. Further these residents note that rising demand for land in Chatham leads to higher property value for all existing residents. And finally, they say that growth will bring more retail stores to the area so that the county loses less of their sales tax revenue to neighboring counties.