It was the home of American actor Andy Griffith, and the inspiration for the fictional community Mayberry, the setting of The Andy Griffith Show. Several locations mentioned in the show reflect real sites in Mount Airy, including Mount Pilot (nearby Pilot Mountain) and Snappy Lunch, a restaurant which still stands in the city's downtown. The community holds an annual "Mayberry Days" celebration which regularly attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
As of the census of 2000, there are 8,484 people, 3,667 households, and 2,130 families residing in the city. The population density is 390.4/km² (1,010.8/mi²). There are 4,129 housing units at an average density of 190.0/km² (491.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 85.34% White, 7.99% African American, 0.35% Native American, 2.55% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 2.49% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. 5.87% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 3,667 households out of which 24.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% are married couples living together, 14.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% are non-families. 38.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 19.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.16 and the average family size is 2.87.
In the city the population is spread out with 21.6% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 25.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 43 years. For every 100 females there are 84.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 78.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $26,910, and the median income for a family is $33,412. Males have a median income of $27,299 versus $24,830 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,237. 19.9% of the population and 17.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 24.7% are under the age of 18 and 20.7% are 65 or older.