Fed says that Florida leads the South, but Georgia too draws millions

A couple generations ago, most residents of Georgia had been born in the state. And then the moving vans started to arrive…

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A couple generations ago, most residents of Georgia had been born in the state. And then the moving vans started to arrive…

The overall mobility of Americans has dropped. But the southeast, especially Florida, continues to gain population.

The Sunshine State had 14 million people move there from elsewhere during the past five decades, according to the Federal Reserves' Charles Davidson.

In 1950, Florida had just 2.77 million people and was the 20th largest state. By comparison, New York was most populous, with 14.8 million people.

But now Florida is the third most-populous state with 20.6 million residents – ranking ahead of New York, according to the Census Bureau.

Georgia, in 1950, was the 13th largest state, smaller than Indiana. About 3.4 million people lived in the state.

In contrast, the most recent Census Bureau estimate has Georgia with more than 10.3 million residents, making it the eighth-largest state, ahead of North Carolina and just behind Ohio.

Migration has been a big part of the story for Georgia, too.

In 1950, 85 percent of the people who lived in Georgia had been born in the state. By 2015, just 55 percent of the state’s residents were Georgia-born.

And of course, Atlanta has been much of the Georgia story, Davidson wrote recently on the Fed website's regional economics page.

“Metro Atlanta’s estimated 2016 population of 5.8 million is nearly nine times its 1950 size. The U.S. population roughly doubled over the same period.”

Georgia, like most of the South, was actually losing population during the 1950s, largely because of the “Great Migration” of African Americans from south to north, demographers say.

But then the tide turned.

Millions of blacks returned to the South, with metro Atlanta luring many. Davidson cites Census data that shows metro Atlanta to be second only to New York City as home to blacks. Other studies show metro Atlanta as the third-largest black middle class behind New York and Washington, D.C.

Despite that slowdown in mobility, growth is expected to continue.

A recent study by the Atlanta Regional Commission estimated that by 2040, metro Atlanta alone will have more than 8 million people.

Percent of people born in the state of Georgia:

1950 – 85

2000 – 58

2015 – 55

Sources: Atlanta Federal Reserve, Census Bureau

Year.… Population….. Rank among states 


1950 — 2.77 million, 20th

2016 — 20.6 million, 3rd


1950 — 3.44 million, 13th

2016 — 10.3 million, 8th 

Sources: Atlanta Federal Reserve, Census Bureau

A couple of generations ago, the vast majority of Georgians had been born in the state. But then came the moving vans.


AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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