A closer look at the new census numbers

What the new census numbers say about Georgia

Today, we are going to take a closer look at the census data that was unveiled last week and what the numbers say about Georgia. We will use several detailed charts and graphs to give you a visual idea of how much our state has changed!


Georgia becoming majority-minority

The census figures suggest that Georgia will almost certainly become a majority-nonwhite state by the end of this decade, as the white population is just barely hovering above 50%. That’s a steep decline from 2010, when whites made up nearly 56% of the state’s population.

Looking at raw numbers, there are nearly 370,000 more African-Americans in Georgia than there were 10 years ago. The state’s Hispanic population grew by nearly 270,000, and Asian-Americans increased by about 164,000. These figures mirror a national trend: the once overwhelmingly-white south is becoming incredibly diverse.

It’s not unrealistic to believe that Georgia is already a majority-minority state. We must remember that census response rates among people of color have historically been disproportionately lower than those of their white counterparts. Not to mention, the COVID-19 pandemic presented several challenges to the decennial enumeration. So while Georgia may not yet be majority-minority on paper, it’s very likely that we have already achieved that milestone.


Is the “Black Mecca” no more?

Atlanta has long hailed itself as the “Black Mecca” of the deep south. For the last several decades, African-Americans have taken advantage of the city’s many economic and social opportunities. But according to last week’s census figures, the African-American population in the city of Atlanta is on the decline.

The 2010 census found that African-Americans made up 54% of the city’s population. Last year’s census found that Blacks now make up a plurality — 47% — of the city’s population. Meanwhile, the city’s white population is on the rise: there are nearly 40,000 more white people in the city than there were 10 years ago.

There could be several reasons for this, but for the sake of time, I’ll only go over a few. One of the biggest reasons could be the cost of living. If you’ve ever lived or worked in a big city, I probably don’t need to tell you that it is not a cheap place to live. Many of the city’s African-American residents could be moving to nearby suburbs, or even other states, to escape the high cost of living. We’ll examine this shortly.

As for the increasing white population, it could be attributed in part to Atlanta’s growing business community. In recent years, tax incentives passed by state lawmakers have attracted lots of businesses and corporations to Atlanta. The workforces in these businesses tend to be dominated by upper class whites from out-of-state.

A term that has been used a lot when talking about this subject is gentrification. Because this is a sensitive subject for some people, I’m not going to discuss it in detail. But you are more than welcome to read more about it here.


Blacks moving to suburbs

As I mentioned, middle class African-Americans who are overwhelmed by the cost of living in big cities like Atlanta are finding new homes in suburban counties. And the new census figures reflect that.

Of the 10 counties that saw the largest increase in African-American population over the last decade, 8 of them are in the metro Atlanta suburbs. the county that saw the largest increase is Henry County, which is located south of the city. It is now 48% African-American, an increase of 12% over the last decade. For reference, the county wasn’t even 15% Black after the 2000 census.

Most of the counties that saw decreases in Black population were in rural south Georgia. Charlton County, located along the Florida line, is now 19% Black. That’s a decrease of 9% compared to 2010, the largest in the state.

Over the last several decades, the conversation surrounding suburban areas has been focused on white people moving out of large cities, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the “white flight.” But these days, white people seem to be moving back into large cities while African-Americans are finding new opportunities in suburban counties.

Several suburban counties that were once overwhelmingly white are now seeing increasing Black populations. Likewise, the Black populations in Atlanta and other large cities are declining while white populations are increasing.


Congressional redistricting: ATL suburbs booming, rural GA stalling

With crucial census figures now in hand, state lawmakers now have the data that they will need to begin redrawing Georgia’s congressional and state legislative boundaries for the next 10 years. While the current congressional districts might not be in place for much longer, let’s discuss how much they have grown (or shrunk) over the last decade.

The Census Bureau says that the ideal population of a congressional district these days is 765,136 people. The district closest to that number currently is the 6th, based in the Atlanta suburbs. The most overpopulated district in the state is the neighboring 7th district, which includes most of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. The 7th will need to shed about 94,000 people in the mapmaking process.

The census numbers were not encouraging for south Georgia, where the 2nd congressional district will need to gain about 92,000 residents. At the same time, the district will have to remain majority-Black in order to avoid lawsuits. But the Black population has declined dramatically in rural areas, a stat that leaves state lawmakers stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

The main takeaway is this: state lawmakers will have to address both the population gains in metro Atlanta and the population losses across rural Georgia. Given how much the 7th district has grown, it will not be very easy for Republicans to carve it into a new Republican district. And the dismal trends in southwest Georgia means that the 2nd district will have to take up some new territory. Will that new territory be hostile or friendly to Democrats?


State legislative redistricting: South GA will lose representation

Population losses in South Georgia could lead to the area having less representation in the General Assembly. Looking at State Senate districts, the 5 least populated districts in the state are all located in South Georgia. Meanwhile, the 5 most overpopulated districts are all in the metro Atlanta area. These numbers suggest that the state’s metro areas, particularly Atlanta, will gain more representation in the coming years.

This also means that a lot of rural incumbents could soon find themselves paired into the same districts as their nearby colleagues, because these districts will have to absorb more territory in order to make up for population losses. In short, a lot of rural districts could soon see primaries (and maybe even general elections) that feature two or more incumbents.

South Georgia’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, which remains the largest industry in the state. Georgia farmers are still trying to recover from the impacts of both the pandemic and recent hurricanes. But with less representation in the State Capitol, the area will have fewer voices in the room when lawmakers are discussing the state budget. Agriculture, while a driving force of the state’s economy, might not be a top priority for a legislature that is a increasingly metropolitan. It will be interesting to see how an urban-dominated legislature will heed the needs of their rural colleagues.

While rural Georgia’s economy is dominated by agriculture, big cities are reliant on large corporations and businesses. As such, we could soon see the state’s economy rely more on corporations. After all, some of the largest companies in the world are based in Atlanta: Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines and UPS, just to name a few. More state lawmakers from the Atlanta area could mean more tax cuts and other incentives to encourage more large businesses to move their operations to the Atlanta area.

The bottom line is this: Agriculture is a large industry, but it will soon have few advocates under the Gold Dome. So our state’s economy could soon shift from farms to office buildings.


Conclusion

These census numbers are going to reshape our state for the next 10 years. They will determine who represents you in Washington, the state capitol and even on your county commissions and city councils. Schools could use these numbers to hire more teachers and repairmen could use them to fix that unpaved road that you take to work every morning. They will also determine when, where and how federal and state resources are allocated. In short, these numbers are going to impact our way of life in the Peach State.


For a detailed breakdown of the new census numbers, click here.