By David Pendered
A report released Monday by Georgia State University shows dramatic changes in metro Atlanta’s demographics since 1970. The population is more diverse, older, better educated, and living closer together. The proportion of middle income households has declined slightly since the Great Recession.
Even the geographic definition of the region has grown by leaps and bounds:
- “In 1970, the Atlanta [metropolitan statistical area], as defined by the federal government, consisted of five counties (Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett), spanned 1,731 square miles and had a population of 1,387,865.
- “By 2015, the Atlanta MSA consisted of 29 counties, encompassed 8,376 square miles and had a population of 5,710,795.”
To accommodate this growth, residents have given up a good bit of their personal space:
- “The population density of the five counties increased from 802 people per square mile in 1970 to 2,048 people per square mile in 2015; the population density of the 29 counties in 2015 was 682.”
The Changing Face of Atlanta covers the era from 1970 to 2015. The co-authors are Lakshmi Pandey and David Sjoquist. In a report to be released Tuesday, the two collaborate with colleague Chandrayee Chatterjee on an analysis of Georgia to be released this week, The Loss of the Middle Class.
The author’s highlighted the following findings:
- “The percentage of the population that was nonwhite nearly doubled, increasing from 22.2 percent to 44.2 percent of the total population.
- “The percentage of the adult population with less than a high school diploma decreased from 52.6 percent to 11.8 percent, while the percentage with a college degree or more increased from 12.0 percent to 35.8 percent.
- “From 1970 to 2015, those 17 years of age and under fell from 34.2 percent to 25.6 percent of the total population, while those 65 years of age and over increased from 7.3 percent to 10.3 percent.
- “The percentage of households classified as middle income went from 47.8 percent in 1970 to 52.7 percent in 2000, before falling to 46.2 percent in 2015.”
These findings are compatible with others on metro Atlanta, which have covered issues including income mobility and housing costs. However, the GSU analysis is far more nuanced.
The GSU report benefits from Sjoquist’s perspective. He joined GSU in 1970 and has been a prolific researcher/author on the evolution of metro Atlanta on topics including the region’s economy, jobs, tax policy, impact of transit, and education, according to his bio on GSU’s website.
Pandey brings more than 19 years of experience at GSU in data-driven policy analysis.
The report arrives an opportune moment. The findings are likely to be of use to urban planners in Atlanta and transit advocates at the state level.
Atlanta is in the midst of rewriting its decades-long vision of the city’s growth and development. The Atlanta City Design Project is overseen by Ryan Gravel, who dreamed up the vision for the Atlanta BeltLine.
State lawmakers almost agreed to create a commission to evaluate the planning and possible statewide funding of mass transit systems in Atlanta and other urban centers. The Senate passed Senate Bill 6. A House committee wrote a substitute version, and the House voted on the last day of the session to send the bill back to committee. It is eligible for consideration in the 2018 legislative session.
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