Demographics of Columbia, South Carolina

Population and Growth

Columbia is the capital and second-largest city in South Carolina, with a population of 134,309 as of the 2020 census. The city has seen steady population growth over the past few decades, increasing by over 20% since 2000.

Population Breakdown by Race and Ethnicity

Columbia has a racially and ethnically diverse population:

  • White: 44.9%
  • Black or African American: 42.7%
  • Asian: 4.1%
  • Two or more races: 2.8%
  • Other race: 2.6%
  • Native American: 0.4%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%

Over 5% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Age Distribution

The median age in Columbia is 32.9 years old. Breaking the population down by age group:

  • Under 5 years: 7.1%
  • 5 to 19 years: 19.8%
  • 20 to 34 years: 23.5%
  • 35 to 54 years: 25.3%
  • 55 to 74 years: 16.5%
  • 75 years and over: 7.9%

Columbia has a relatively young population, with over 60% of residents under the age of 55.

Households and Families

As of 2020, there are 53,800 households in Columbia with an average household size of 2.29 people. Families make up 58% of households in Columbia.

Marital Status

Over a third (36%) of Columbia residents age 15 and older are currently married, while 15% are divorced and 41% have never been married.

Household Income

The median household income in Columbia is $44,922 compared to $59,988 statewide. Over 23% of households earn under $25,000 per year while 30% earn over $75,000 annually.

Poverty remains an issue in the city, with over 25% of residents living below the federal poverty line. Single mothers are especially likely to be economically vulnerable.

Education

Columbia benefits from an educated population, with over 42% of adult residents holding an associate, bachelor’s or graduate/professional degree.

K-12 Schools

The public and private school systems in Columbia provide solid educational opportunities to local families. Notable institutions include:

  • Richland School District One
  • Richland School District Two
  • Lexington-Richland School District Five
  • Hammond School (private)
  • Cardinal Newman School (private Catholic)
  • Heathwood Hall Episcopal School (private)

On average, graduation rates exceed 80% across local high schools.

Higher Education

Columbia is home to several renowned institutes of higher learning:

University of South Carolina

Founded in 1801, the University of South Carolina (UofSC) is a major public research university located right in downtown Columbia. Over 35,000 students are enrolled, including graduates and undergraduates.

UofSC is segmented into multiple campuses, including:

  • Columbia campus (main)
  • School of Medicine
  • Palmetto College

The university is considered a top-tier institution nationally and offers over 350 degree programs. It brings money, talent and opportunities into the local economy.

Allen University

Allen University is a small, historically Black university affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Approximately 500 students are enrolled.

Columbia College

Columbia College is a private liberal arts college focused on providing educational access to nontraditional students. The main campus is in Columbia and evening/online classes are also offered.

Economy and Industry

Major industries and employers help drive Columbia’s economy:

State Government

As the state capital and seat of South Carolina’s government, Columbia has a large public sector workforce. Top state government employers include:

  • South Carolina Department of Corrections
  • South Carolina Department of Mental Health
  • South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs

State government jobs provide over 30,000 local jobs.

Healthcare

Healthcare is a vital industry in Columbia and the surrounding Midlands region. Major health systems and hospitals include:

Prisma Health

Formed from a merger between Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System, Prisma Health is the largest healthcare provider in South Carolina. Prisma Health employs around 3,000 people in the Midlands.

Lexington Medical Center

Lexington Medical Center provides quality care to residents across Lexington County and employs over 5,000 staff.

Providence Health

Providence Health serves patients at multiple facilities in the Midlands. Providence Hospital in downtown Columbia anchors the network.

Higher Education

Institutions like UofSC and local technical/community colleges also provide jobs for thousands of faculty, staff, researchers and support personnel.

Technology & Business

Columbia seeks to promote itself as hub for technology companies and emerging startups. Organizations like the Columbia Chamber work to attract new firms.

In terms of large corporate employers, Bank of America, BlueCross BlueShield and AT&T all maintain regional offices in Columbia. Amazon is also building two new fulfillment centers just outside the city.

Tourism

Tourist destinations in Columbia contribute to the economy. Popular sites like the South Carolina State Museum, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center bring dollars into the city through hotel stays, event booking and local spending.

Transportation

Columbia maintains a network of roads, public transit options, rail infrastructure and an international airport.

Roadways

Busy interstate highways provide regional connectivity:

I-20

Running from Florence to Augusta, Georgia, I-20 connects Columbia west to Atlanta and east to cities like Myrtle Beach.

I-26

I-26 links Columbia north to Spartanburg and south to Charleston.

I-77

I-77 connects Columbia to Charlotte, NC to the north.

These interstates converge right in downtown Columbia, meaning the city serves as a transportation hub. Other major roadways radiating out from the urban core include US Routes 1, 21, 76, 178, 321 and 378.

Transit Systems

Public transportation is available through the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, which provides bus service around Columbia and neighboring towns. Fare is $1.50 per ride.

A free downtown shuttle called the “Downtown Spirit” also transports locals and tourists between popular stops.

Passenger Rail

Amtrak trains connect Columbia to other cities via two routes:

  • Silver Star Line: Daily service to Savannah, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and New York City
  • Palmetto Route: Daily service to Charleston, Florence, Savannah and New York City

The Columbia Amtrak station is located downtown.

Air Travel

Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) offers around 100 daily flights to major airline hubs like Charlotte, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Chicago and New York City. A recently modernized terminal provides an improved travel experience.

Quality of Life

Between Southern charm and city amenities, Columbia provides an excellent place to live, work and play.

Neighborhoods

There are many wonderful neighborhoods around Columbia offering distinct local vibes. Top areas include:

Shandon

Located near downtown, Shandon is known for historic homes, boutique shops & cafes and family-friendly vibes. Residents tend to be liberal-leaning professionals.

Forest Acres

Forest acres features larger suburban homes perfect for raising a family, along with proximity to shopping.

Rosewood

Conveniently located near both downtown and the Vista district, Rosewood contains beautiful early 20th century houses now home to graduate students and young professionals.

Five Points

Five Points offers walkable streets packed with bars, restaurants and small music venues patronized by the college crowd. It caters to a hip, artsy set.

Parks and Recreation

Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of Columbia’s mild climate and abundance of parks & green spaces, including:

Riverfront Park

Located along the scenic Congaree River downtown, this park hosts festivals and cultural events. Walking/bike paths connect to the Three Rivers Greenway.

Finlay Park

Finlay Park serves as an urban oasis just west of Main Street. Public art installations and multipurpose event facilities give locals a gathering place.

Sesquicentennial State Park

Offering over 1,400 acres of pine forests and wetlands, this nature preserve provides opportunities for hiking, fishing, canoeing and wildlife viewing just minutes from downtown.

Culture and Entertainment

Columbia delivers plentiful options for dining, shopping and fun via venues like:

South Carolina State Museum

This interactive museum traces local history with permanent/traveling exhibits spanning art, science, culture & technology.

Koger Center for the Arts

The Koger Center hosts performances from touring Broadway shows and music acts to the local symphony orchestra.

Colonial Life Arena

Home to USC basketball and headline concerts, the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena anchors Columbia’s entertainment district.

The Vista

The hip Vista district features boutique shops, art galleries, and over 20 restaurants located in repurposed historical buildings downtown. The area comes alive at night and on weekends, making it a hub for nightlife. Popular bars and music venues accommodate USC students and young professionals with plenty of choices.

Five Points

Similar to the Vista, Five Points provides hotspots for dining and grabbing drinks, especially along Harden Street. Retro theaters like the Nickelodeon also offer entertainment like indie films and stand-up comedy. The lively, youthful ambiance draws in college students from nearby campuses.

EdVenture Children’s Museum

For families with kids, EdVenture Children’s Museum offers eight themed learning areas over three floors to inspire children’s curiosity through interactive, educational play. Exhibits, daily programs, field trips and camps give families an enriching place to spend the day.

Dining Scene

Foodies can indulge at Columbia’s 1,000+ eateries ranging from down-home Southern cooking to fine continental cuisine. Iconic specialties include:

  • Smoked barbeque – Award-winning joints use hickory wood to slow smoke pork shoulders, Texas-style beef brisket, ribs and chicken served with vinegar-based sauces.
  • Soul food – Local southern buffets and cafeterias dish out comforting classics like fried catfish, pork chops, oxtails, lima beans, collard greens, cornbread and sweet potato pie.
  • Mexican/Tex-Mex fare – Numerous taquerias sling made-to-order burritos, nachos, tacos, quesadillas and more.
  • Pizza and wings – Late-night college hangouts provide the perfect pie and crispy wings by the dozen.
  • Southern breakfasts – Fluffy biscuits, giant omelets loaded with veggies and cheese, crispy bacon, stone-ground grits and more hit the spot for the first meal of the day.
  • Fresh local produce – The state’s year-round growing season supplies farm-to-table restaurants with tasty fruit and vegetables.

From grab-and-go street food to white tablecloth service, it’s easy to find fantastic meals in neighborhoods like Five Points, the Vista and Main Street.

Conclusion

With steady population and economic growth, Columbia offers the best of Southern city living coupled with the stability and importance that comes with being a state capital. New residents will find an open, thriving community with amenities to match its natural scenic beauty and diverse cultures.

Welcoming neighborhoods, family-friendly attractions, a lively arts scene and the exciting University of South Carolina campus contribute to a rising quality of life for all.

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  • Start out going south on Main Street toward Oak Avenue. Turn right onto Oak Avenue and continue for 2 miles. Take the ramp onto Highway 77 South and drive for 5 miles. Take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. Turn left onto Slash Pine Road and drive west for 3 miles. Turn right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln will be on your left.
  • Begin by heading west on Park Street for 0.6 miles. Turn left onto Elm Boulevard and go straight for 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Highway 77 South and continue for about 8 miles. Use the left 2 lanes to take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. Keep left at the fork and turn left onto Slash Pine Road. In 2.5 miles, turn right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln is on the right side of the street.
  • Start out on Creek View Drive heading south. Drive for 0.9 miles and turn right onto Oak Avenue. Take Oak Avenue across the bridge over the creek and continue west for 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Highway 77 South and stay on it for approximately 7 miles. Take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto Slash Pine Road heading west. After 2.8 miles, make a right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln will be a gray house on your right side.