Gwinnett County’s dramatic demographic shift illustrates question: “Who are We?”

By David Pendered

The notion that Gwinnett County is home to a population that’s predominately white and affluent is as out-of-date as the idea that two painted water towers along I-85 in Norcross still proclaim: “Success Lives Here.”

Success Lives Here : Gwinnett County's water towers

Gwinnett County’s iconic towers were demolished in 2010, the same year in which the Census recorded stunning shifts in the county’s demographics. Credit: www.11alive.com

The 40-year-old towers were torn down two years ago. In the decade before their demolition, 40,000 whites had moved out of Gwinnett. Now, the county’s population is predominately non-white, and less wealthy and less educated than it was in 2000.

The demographic shift in Gwinnett speaks to the broader question of “Who are We?” That was the topic Wednesday, at the quarterly meeting of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum.

Out of the entire two-hour program, the most stunning report was provided by Lejla Slowinski, executive director of the Lawrenceville Housing Authority.

Slowinski provided a snapshot of Gwinnett’s population that gave some real heft to the demographic report on the metro Atlanta region that was delivered by Michael Rich, an associate professor of political science at Emory University who heads Emory’s Office of University-Community Partnerships.

Slowinski prefaced her remarks by saying she would talk later about ways in which Gwinnett’s civic and government leaders are leveraging the county’s diversity. But first, she said, she wanted to provide a bit of context about Gwinnett.

Speaking without any visual aids, such as a PowerPoint slide show, Slowinski riveted the audience’s attention with a cascade of nuggets derived from the 2000 and 2010 Census reports. The data shows that Gwinnett isn’t just changing – it is a changed community:

  • Per capita income has fallen by $7,000;
  • The proportion of whites in the overall population has fallen to 49.3 percent from 67 percent;
  • No single Census tract has a white population of greater than 90 percent;
  • 32 percent of households speak a language other than English;
  • 61 percent of students in the county school system are non-whites;
  • High school graduation rates for non-whites rose to 70 percent from 50 percent;
  • 25 percent of Gwinnett commuters spend at least 45 minutes a day in the car.

Sources other than the Census provide additional insights:

  • 18 percent of Gwinnett’s children live in poverty;
  • The county’s poverty rate rose from 5.6 percent in 2000 to 13 percent in 2009;
  • The number of foreclosures in Gwinnett has topped Fulton since 2009 (Fulton formerly had the region’s highest number of foreclosures).

One relevant point is that Gwinnett’s government and school board are trying to serve the human needs of this population with an ever-decreasing amount of tax revenues.

At the Piece by Piece annual meeting last week, Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said the county’s digest has dropped 25 percent during the past five years. That decrease has reduced the amount of property taxes collected by the county and school system, which is the main source of funding for both governments.

“The population has continued to diversify,” Nash said. “According to the 2010 Census, Gwinnett was the most diverse county in the southeast. That very different from what it was 20 years. It’s created language considerations, and the demand for additional types of flexibility in terms of how we deal with the community.”

Slowinski said the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce works diligently to reach out to, and serve, the minority business community. The number of firms owned by Hispanics and African Americans is still a small proportion of the overall mix, but it’s growing, she said.

“Gwinnett wants to be a middle of the road county, but also can see itself being an international gateway, and some of that is evident in the efforts to bring a [commercial] airport to the county,” Slowinski said. “They really are pushing the concept of, ‘Success Lives Here.’”

At the start of the meeting, Rich set the framework for the forum’s conversation. The purpose of the quarterly housing forum was to discuss ways in which changing demographics are reshaping the region.

Rich used a comparison of Census data from 2000 to 2010 to note that:

  • The city of Atlanta’s population has shifted from almost ¾ African American to slightly more than half African American, as whites and other ethnic groups have moved into the central city;
  • Non-whites represent almost half the population outside the city of Atlanta, a region in which whites formerly comprised over ¾ of the population;
  • Poverty has risen dramatically in the suburbs, as opposed to being concentrated in the city of Atlanta;
  • Whites tend to reside in Census tracts where most residents are white;
  • African Americans and Hispanics tend to reside in communities where less than half the other residents are of their heritage.

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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8 comments
PrettyWings
PrettyWings

I presume that all of the comments are from racist white men. Your colors are showing.

Amy D
Amy D

There must be some mistake in this story.  I thought diversity was our greatest strength.  You are only talking about weaknesses.  You are too negative.

JohnEarl1
JohnEarl1

The perfect storm is about hit.  This article has provided the statistics, and the reasons, for the violence that will shortly begin.  The third world has been allowed to enter, both legally and illegally. They have brought their culture with them, and even after one or more generations in this Nation, they, for the most part, refuse to assimulate to the American culture.

 

Still believe violence is not coming in the near future?

aaron4gold
aaron4gold

In 1965 Ted Kennedy, Jacob Javits, manny celler and Phil Hart pushed through Congress The "HART-CELLER" immigration reform bill  as "JFK's Legacy." That bill bill opened America's borders to the third world and ENDED european immigration. That same year, the same people pushed through "FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS," that gave the illegal invaders equal rights to Americans. WHAT GEORGIA GOT FROM THESE TWO LAWS WAS THE SECOND CIVIL WAR! Exactly 100 years AFTER the first civil war ended Bobby and teddy Kennedy used FEDERAL TROOPS TO INVADE EVERY STATE IN THE SOUTH! They forced innocent white parents to bus babies up to 100 miles one way as "pay back" to blacks. In reality, blacks have received NOTHING from the two laws. The reality is that the illegal invaders have reaped 100% of the benefits of Hart-Celler and Federal Civil Rights. What has happened to little Gwinnett County is a direct result of the 1965 laws forced upon all Americans as JFK's legacy. As America teeters on the edge of economic and historical extinction one has to wonder just how much America had to suffer to preserve JFK's legacy!

levotb
levotb

Notice that there wasn't one mention of the word "illegal" in this presentation? Illegal aliens should not be counted by the CENSUS and should also not be given any aid whatseover. If GA wants to rid itself of the 500,000-plus illegals living off the taxpayer or taking American jobs there, it need to ENFORCE HB 87 in ALL counties!

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{“Gwinnett wants to be a middle of the road county, but also can see itself being an international gateway"}}

 

How in the heck could a community that is as ultradiverse as Gwinnett ever be considered "middle-of-the-road"?

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @JohnEarl1

 The violence has already begin as Gwinnett led the Southeastern U.S. in kidnappings in 2008 and I fear that you unfortunately may be correct with Gwinnett's status as the leading Latin American drug cartel drug distribution hub for the entire Eastern North American continent (with 368 kidnappings in 2008 Phoenix, Arizona had more kidnappings than any other city on the entire planet outside of annual international kidnapping leader Mexico City).

 

The third world has not only been allowed to enter, they have been actively encouraged to enter and will continue to be encouraged to enter the U.S. in the name of profit.  The thing is that Georgia is just now beginning to experience what places like New York, Florida, Texas and, especially, California, have been experiencing for years with an overwhelmingly massive wave of illegal immigration (Los Angeles is the 2nd-largest Spanish-speaking city on the enitre planet; Mexico City is the largest while Houston's healthcare system has for years teetered on the verge of collapse because of the continuously crushing amount of illegal immigration).

 

If you think that the massive wave of both legal and illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America is overwhelming than 'you ain't seen nothing yet' as if you live in Metro Atlanta you are basically living at what is Ground Zero for the next massive wave of immigration which will be from Asia, particularly the Indian Subcontinent and South Asia as Metro Atlanta (particularly Gwinett County) is virtually the top destination on the North American continent for East Indians relocating from a nation in India that is home to over 1 billion people.

 

The next wave of immigration is highly likely to completely dwarf anything that we may have seen from Mexico and Latin America so far and is a pending demographic and population explosion that has the business community literally salivating and foaming at the mouth because of the profit potential that is more than likely to result (Example: Think of Wal-Mart's profit-making potential in a Metro Atlanta region that grows from the population of nearly 6 million it has now to 10-13 million people and an America that grows from the population of 300 million people that the it can barely handle now to a population of over 500 million people sometime later this century).

 

Gwinnett County is home to what has been reported to be the largest Hindu temple on the planet outside of India in the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir that stands across from the Publix and behind the Walgreens at the corner of US Hwy 29 and Rockbridge Road.

http://atlanta.baps.org/

 

Heck, the wave of immigration from Asia has been so pronounced that once-legendary football power Parkview High School had extreme problems even fielding a freshman football team back in the Fall Semester of 2009 due to the demographics of the Parkview attendance zone and Central Gwinnett County changing from predominantly white to predominantly Asian.

http://www.governing.com/topics/economic-dev/Immigrants-and-the-Suburban.html 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @levotb

 Georgia (especially those in almost any type of business, both big and small) doesn't really want to rid itself of illegals, the powers-that-be in Georgia not only want to keep the illegals here, they want more to come so that they can profit off of the cheaper labor, not to mention all of the houses, cars, clothes, groceries and everything else that illegals buy and rent.  Illegal immigration is really big business in Georgia and is even bigger business in places like Florida, Texas, California, etc.

 

The state never had any real intention of enforcing HB 87 over the long term as there still has not been a fiscal note assigned to the legislation to pay for it and there is very little, if any, enforcement mechanism in place to make sure that local governments and businesses fully comply and continue to fully comply with the law into the future.  Basically HB 87 is nothing but one great big paper tiger enacted only to satisfy whites who are understandably anxious that illegals are taking over the state and the country (they are) and for state legislators to get their buddies in the legal field some work while defending the law against ongoing lawsuits in the court system.