Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh make up the three corners of the Research Triangle[?], so named in 1959 with the creation of the Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh. Since the early 1980s, Cary, near Raleigh, has grown to be more than twice the size of Chapel Hill.
Demographics As of the census of 2000, there are 48,715 people, 17,808 households, and 8,138 families residing in the town. The population density is 952.4/km² (2,466.0/mi²). There are 18,976 housing units at an average density of 371.0/km² (960.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the town is 77.95% White, 11.42% African American, 0.42% Native American, 7.18% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.16% from other races, and 1.85% from two or more races. 3.21% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 17,808 households out of which 22.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.2% are married couples living together, 7.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.3% are non-families. 31.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.22 and the average family size is 2.88.
In the town the population is spread out with 15.1% under the age of 18, 37.1% from 18 to 24, 24.5% from 25 to 44, 15.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 24 years. For every 100 females there are 82.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 78.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town is $39,140, and the median income for a family is $73,483. Males have a median income of $50,258 versus $32,917 for females. The per capita income for the town is $24,133. 21.6% of the population and 6.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 8.6% are under the age of 18 and 5.6% are 65 or older.
As is typical of college towns, Chapel Hill has historically tended to be politically liberal. It is recognized for the quality of its school system, which it shares with Carrboro. (However, many African American families argue that the system does not serve their children particularly well, as compared with the rest of the state.) There is a music scene, which the town again shares with Carrboro. The Squirrel Nut Zippers[?] are perhaps the most famous musical group to have originated in Chapel Hill.
The Morehead Planetarium was, when it opened in 1949, one of only a handful of planetariums in the nation, and it has remained an important town landmark. During the Apollo program, astronauts were trained there.
Since the late 50s, UNC has been very successful at college basketball, and an obsession with the sport has been one of the most distinctive features of the town's culture. More recently, the town has received regional notice as the site of a large, annual, impromptu Halloween street party.
Chapel Hill, or at least the town center, indeed sits atop a hill--originally called New Hope Chapel Hill after the chapel once located there. The town was founded to serve the University of North Carolina and grew up around it.
In 1968, only a year after its schools became fully integrated, Chapel Hill became the first predominantly white municipality in the country to elect an African American mayor, Howard Lee. Lee served from 1969 until 1975 and, among other things, helped establish the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, legislation was passed to make it free of charge to residents and visitors alike.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the town grew considerably and became wealthier, with a higher proportion of its residents working at jobs not related to the university.