City of Atlanta in a sunny place for population growth; But there’s a catch

By David Pendered

The ARC’s new regional population report, issued today, reveals one stunning statistic amidst the otherwise expected figures about the region’s sluggish growth rate in the post-recession era.

ARC's population report

Click on the link in the story for a larger version of this chart. Credit: ARC

Atlanta is the only one of the 12 geographic areas cited in the report that had more people moving in each of the past two years than had moved in during an average year during the boom times of 1990 to 2010.

That statement needs to be qualified immediately: Atlanta’s population number may change, depending on the outcome of the city’s appeal of the 2010 Census. But for now, Atlanta is in a statistically sunny place.

This growth rate for the city may be viewed as statistically insignificant. But it is notable in the current economy, when growth rates for metropolises across the country have dwindled.

The 10-county area tracked by the ARC posted a total gain of about 37,200 individuals from April 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012. The numbers are unofficial until the ARC board adopts them in a vote scheduled for Aug. 22.

Click here to read the ARC’s “Regional Snapshot: 2012 Atlanta Region Population.

Atlanta’s population grew by an annual average of 799 a year from 2010 to 2012. That figure compares to an average annual increase of 240 individuals during the period of 1990 to 2010, according to the figures released by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

In terms of overall numbers, Gwinnett County still is the region’s giant when it comes to population growth.

Gwinnett added an average of 8,890 individuals a year from 2010 to 2012. That’s down from the annual average of 22,441 new residents a year during the 1990 to 2010 era.

Fulton County came in second to Gwinnett in terms of new residents. The average annual growth rate was 7,760 from 2010 to 2012, down from an annual average of 12,489 from 1990 to 2010.

Cobb County came in third in the region. Cobb added 5,711 from 2010 to 2012, down from an annual average of 11,734 from 1990 to 2010.

In releasing the report, the ARC focused on the region’s story. The ARC noted that the growth rate is higher than the previous year, but remains far below growth rates typical of the region’s recent history. And, the ARC’s executive director added, the break in the pace of growth provides some opportunities.

“While this growth is certainly slower than what we became accustomed to in the ‘90s and 2000s, this pace is laudable in the face of the economic pressures we face,” Doug Hooker, ARC executive director, said in a prepared statement.  “This blip in our growth pattern allows the region and our local governments to catch our collective breaths and prepare for the return of more typical growth.”

Mike Alexander, the ARC’s chief of research, interpreted the figures in terms of the housing market.

“People just don’t move as much when the economy is slow,” Alexander said in the statement. “And, considering that this recession started in the housing market and crippled that industry, property values have declined. That means fewer people are able to sell their homes and move to a different metro area.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 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.

4 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    David, the AJC’s article on this subject is a contrast to yours. Their observation is that regional population growth since 2010 is due natural growth, not in-migration. I don’t believe theirs because, based on the ARC’s figures, in 2012 the City’s population is 25.7% of the combined DeKalb and Fulton population while the City’s population increase in 2010-2012 is only 6.6% of the combined DeKalb and Fulton increase. Or does this imply that City residents are less fertile or just not interested?
     
    The ARC’s figures certainly don’t indicate that the Census Bureau missed many folks in the City during the 2010 Census. I haven’t heard anything about the Mayor’s appeal to the Census Bureau; have you? It’s been almost two years.Report

    Reply
  2. david pendered says:

    Hello,
     
    The status of the city’s response to the 2010 Census has fallen off the radar screen. This latest ARC report, and your observation, certainly brings it to attention. I did pull some past stories, and one piece from 2006 shows an ARC estimate of the city’s population in 2006 was about 451,600, which represented a population increase from 416,500 at the turn of the decade.
     
    The short answer is: I don’t know what happened with a challenge to the Census, and will put it on the list of future stories.
     
    As for the issue of “natural growth,” I looked just now at the number of births as tracked by the Department of Public Health. The latest data there is for 2010. Aligning the reports would take more time than I have right now. The DPH site for births is: 
     
    https://apps.itos.uga.edu/DPHGIS/DPHGISQueryMap.aspx?infotype=B
     
    Regards,
    DavidReport

    Reply
  3. DH-ATL says:

    There seems to be a divergence between ARC and Census figures for the city of Atlanta (not unusual)–
    The Census says Atlanta (proper) has grown by a little over 12,000 since the 2010 census (to 432,000+)– ARC shows significantly less than that, if I’m reading the numbers correctly.  In any case the 10-county ARC metro is pretty mening less since its boundaries are defined by politics and not numbers– the Census 28 county region oe even the wider CSA are more pertinet– and they show decent (if slower) growth in the metro.Report

    Reply
  4. DH-ATL says:

    There seems to be a divergence between ARC and Census figures for the city of Atlanta (not unusual)–
    The Census says Atlanta (proper) has grown by a little over 12,000 since the 2010 census (to 432,000+)– ARC shows significantly less than that, if I’m reading the numbers correctly.  The census numbers show Atlanta as one of the fastest growing cities in the country– percentage wise.  In any case, the 10-county ARC metro is pretty meaningless since its boundaries are defined by politics and not numbers– the Census 28 county region and even the wider CSA are more revealing– and they show decent, if slower,  growth in the metro.  It would be interesting to see what numbers the census uses in estimates vs. what ARC uses– I would think they would be very similar– but they must not be(?)Report

    Reply

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