By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
ATLANTA — Georgia's population grew by 18% over the last decade, a trend driven by African-American migration to a state whose capital has long been known nationally as "the Black Mecca."
The state added 1.5 million people over the past decade for a total of 9,687,653, according to new Census data. Georgia's black population growth — 579,335 — was greater than either the Hispanic (418,462) or white (285,259) population growth, says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. "Georgia is just a major magnet for African Americans, both high-skilled and low-skilled," he says. "For cultural reasons and for economic reasons, the black migration to the state is significant."
GEORGIA: Local county, city data
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Atlanta itself has actually grown whiter in the past decade while its suburbs have gotten blacker, according to Frey's analysis. Atlanta's population in 1990 was 67% black and 30% white; the suburbs were 71% white and 25% African American. By the end of the decade, non-Hispanic whites made up 39% of the city and 53% of the suburbs while blacks were 51% of the city and 31% of the suburbs.
"You have the young, white, single professional who's willing to take a new job in the city, live in a condo or apartment, and walk or take the bus to work," says Doug Bachtel, a demographer at the University of Georgia. "The growth of the African-American population in the suburbs is due to changing policies associated with housing discrimination. It's not a matter of race, it's social class. There are some gated black communities in (suburban) Cobb County."
The state's five biggest cities each posted gains; Atlanta grew 0.8% to 420,003; Augusta 0.4% to 200,549; Columbus 1.9% to 189,885; Savannah 3.6% to 136,286, and Athens-Clarke County 15% to 116,714.
Georgia's five biggest counties, four of them in metro Atlanta, were led by perennial growth engine Gwinnett, which set the pace with a 37% jump to 805,321. Some areas saw sharp declines. "There is a significant amount of out-migration because of a loss of job opportunities," says Bachtel. "The recession has exacerbated that."
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