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Coastal Trends Report Series

Population Trends Along the Coastal United States: 1980-2008

Population Report Cover

In 2003, approximately 153 million people (53 percent of the nation’s population) lived in U.S. coastal counties. (Photo: Kevin Fleming, ©Corbis)


On March 1, 2005, NOAA released Population Trends Along the Coastal United States: 1980-2008 (pdf, 4.6 mb, 54 pp), a report that presents an overview of coastal population trends from 1980 to 2003 and projected change in coastal population by 2008. This publication from the Special Projects Office of NOAA’s National Ocean Service updates an earlier version of the report that was compiled over a decade ago as part of a Coastal Trends Report Series. The report provides coastal resource managers and stakeholders with information to enhance coastal management decision making.


Coastal areas in the U.S. 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, they also may result in the loss of critical habitat, green space, and biodiversity. The narrow coastal fringe that makes up 17 percent of the nation's contiguous land area is home to more than half of its population. In 2003, approximately 153 million people (53 percent of the nation’s population) lived in the 673 U.S. coastal counties, an increase of 33 million people since 1980. Other notable findings from the updated population report include:

  • By the year 2008, coastal county population is expected to increase by approximately 7 million.
  • By the year 2008, the combined population increase of San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties in California will account for 12 percent of the total U.S. coastal population increase.
  • Los Angeles County, CA, Harris County, TX, and Riverside County, CA experienced the greatest increases in population from 1980 to 2003.
  • In 2003, 23 of the 25 most densely populated U.S. counties were coastal.
  • Almost one quarter of the nation’s seasonal homes are found in the coastal areas of Florida.


This report is available in hardcopy from the Special Project Office by contacting Kristen.Crossett@noaa.gov. It is available online in the Assessments Section of NOAA’s Spatial Trends in Coastal Socioeconomics (STICS) Web site and through the links below.

Complete Report (pdf, 4.6 mb, 54 pp)
Cover, Front Matter, and Introduction (pdf, 872 kb, 6 pp)
National Overview (pdf, 1.1 mb, 11 pp)
Regional Trends (pdf, 1.2 mb, 10 pp)
Population by Coastal Watershed (pdf, 268 kb, 2 pp)
Conclusion, References, and Back Matter (pdf, 91 kb, 4 pp)
Appendices (pdf, 1.1 mb, 21 pp)

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