A new study from Georgia State University reveals that Georgia generally attracted lower income taxpayers during the boom of the 1990s and through the Great Recession, to 2011.

Midtown Miracle
Atlanta’s Midtown Miracle mile has fostered a resurgence in the area. Credit: David Pendered
Atlanta’s Midtown Miracle mile has fostered a resurgence in the area. Credit: David Pendered

Specifically, the report determined that individuals moving into the state had lower adjusted gross income than those leaving the state. In addition, individuals moving into Georgia had lower adjusted gross income than that of existing Georgia residents.

The report states:

  • “Our analysis indicates that over most of the 1993-2011 period, taxpayers coming into the state had less income than taxpayers leaving the state, and taxpayers moving into the state had incomes below the non-moving residents of the state.”

To provide a degree of perspective, the Census reports that Georgia now ranks 35th in terms of median household income.

Georgia trails 34 states and Washington, D.C. Georgia’s median household income is $47,958.30. Last place, Mississippi, has a figure of $40,193.82. Top-ranked Maryland has a figure of $69,826.10. The figures are in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars, and based on a reporting period of 2011 through 2013.

Dr. Laura Wheeler, one of two authors of the GSU report, said the data in the report doesn’t go deep enough to interpret the situation of those who moved into the state. For instance, it doesn’t evaluate their occupation, size of family, number of workers in a household, and other variables. That is a question for future study, should one be done.

Wheeler serves as a senior research associate at GSU’s Center for State and Local Finance. Sherman Cooper, a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant, was the co-author. The report is titled: “Changes in Georgia’s Migration Patterns, 1991-2011.”

Of note, income is just one aspect of the report, though it is a dominant aspect.

Other portions confirm that Georgia has been a national destination for migration; that in the late 1990s Georgia ranked fourth nationally in population growth; and that in the post-recession economy Georgia now ranks 14th in terms of migration into the state.

The population boom of the 1990s began on a sweet note for Georgia, according to the report.

From 1993 to 1995, individuals moving into the state had incomes generally on par with Georgia residents. Furthermore, those who left the state during that period had lower per capita incomes than those who remained in Georgia.

The trend flipped following the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

According to the report:

  • “By 1997, the picture reverses and in-migration per capita AGI [adjusted gross income] begins to fall considerably below 100 percent of non- migration AGI, indicating that on average the individuals moving into the state had incomes less than the existing population.
  • “In general, this trend continues and strengthens through 2011. Overall, out-migration per capita AGI exceeds non-migration per capita AGI from 1998-2006. This trend in out-migration per capita AGI coupled with the trend in in-migration per capita AGI worked to reduce state per capita income levels over this time period.”

The trend shifted again at the outset of the great recession.

The folks who left Georgia in 2007 had lower adjusted gross income than those who remained in the state. Though the report doesn’t mention the foreclosure issue, Georgia was among the states that led the nation in foreclosures, and some of those former homeowners likely left the state to seek work elsewhere or to move in with family or friends.

The report does observe:

  • “By 2007, out-migration per capita AGI falls below the 100 percent line indicating that individuals moving out of the state had lower per capita AGI than the remaining population.
  • “By 2010, in-migration per capita AGI was greater than out-migration per capita AGI, indicating that those individuals moving into the state had higher incomes on average than those moving out of the state.

Still, the folks moving into the state in recent years can hardly be viewed as affluent. According to the report:

  • “On the other hand, in-migration per capita AGI was significantly below that of the non-migration population.”

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...

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