Update Aug 12, 2021: The AJC is reading and analyzing the new 2020 Census results for Georgia released Thursday Aug. 12 and providing updates and reaction. Some bullet points:
- Georgia grew substantially more diverse over the last 10 years as its Black, Hispanic and Asian populations surged
- Statewide, the number of Black Georgians increased by 13%, while the white population dropped by 1%.
- The four largest Atlanta-area counties of Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett each grew by more than 10%.
- Sixty-seven of Georgia’s 159 counties — most of them smaller and rural — lost population, part of a nationwide trend.
Georgia’s population jumped by 10% to 10.7 million between 2010 and 2020, adding about 1 million people but failing to pick up another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to once-a-decade figures the Census Bureau released Monday.
That total reflects Georgia’s number of residents plus overseas servicemembers and federal civilian employees — and dependents living with them — who have listed Georgia as their home state in employment records.
The new numbers are critical for apportionment, the constitutionally required process that determines how many seats each state gets in the House for the next 10 years.
Texas is the biggest winner, gaining two seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon are each picking up a seat, while California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are losing one each.
After the 1790 census, each House member represented about 34,000 residents. The House has more than quadrupled in size since then, from 105 to 435 seats. Based on the 2020 census results, each member will now represent an average of 761,169 people.
The United States grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020 to 331.4 million, the second smallest rate of growth in its history. The South grew the fastest over the last decade at 10.2%.
The coronavirus pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes disrupted the work of census takers. The count drew additional scrutiny when the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census form, a move blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Despite many challenges, our nation completed a census for the 24th time. This act is fundamental to our democracy and a declaration of our growth and resilience,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday.
The decennial count helps determine where the government should distribute hundreds of billions in federal funds each year. City- and county-level population statistics and demographic information including age, sex and race from the 2020 census are expected to be released later this year.
“The upside is there is a million more people in Georgia, so that means more money, but it also means more people to serve,” said Michael Rich, who teaches public policy at Emory University and has written about how census data is used in distributing federal aid.
Communities use the census data to plan new roads and hospitals and to determine how many teachers should work in each school. Businesses study the numbers when deciding where to build new factories and stores.
Atlanta-area officials expect the forthcoming 2020 census data will show the region’s growth has slowed while its population has become more diverse.
“The decennial census is the gold standard for demographic and population count data,” said Mike Carnathan, who manages the research and analytics division at the Atlanta Regional Commission. “We will be able to see which neighborhoods are adding population and which neighborhoods are seeing a decline in population. We are going to be able to see how the racial makeup of these neighborhoods has changed.”
Georgia lawmakers will use the data to redraw state and congressional legislative districts, ensuring each has an equal number of constituents. Republicans control the state Legislature, so they will lead the process, set to begin during a special session this fall.
Following Democratic wins in the presidential and U.S. Senate races in Georgia and after an overhaul of the state’s elections laws, redistricting is expected to be the next big political battle, one that will likely trigger lawsuits.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, is waiting for the additional census numbers to be released to make sense of what it will mean for Georgia.
“I’m not going to speculate,” he said of imagining what a redistricting legislative session might look like this fall. “We need to wait until we get the numbers because this is not something you should play guessing games with.”
Georgia’s population has reached 10.7 million, gaining a million new residents from 2010 to 2020.
But for the first time since 1990, the state will not add a congressional seat, as population growth slowed from the pace of the previous two decades.
The United States grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020 to 331.4 million, the second smallest rate of growth in its history.