Atlanta surpasses half a million residents, growth among largest in nation

In this aerial image the Atlanta downtown skyline is seen on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Atlanta is experiencing a population surge that outpaces other cities. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

In this aerial image the Atlanta downtown skyline is seen on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Atlanta is experiencing a population surge that outpaces other cities. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

After years of falling short of the milestone, Atlanta is once again a city of more than half a million residents according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The news comes weeks after the greater metro Atlanta region surpassed Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to become the nation’s sixth-largest.

The city added 12,000 new residents between 2022 and 2023, and ranked sixth for population growth nationwide. Atlanta reached a population of 510,800 in July of last year, ranking between Kansas City, Missouri and Mesa City, Arizona.

Atlanta briefly surpassed 500,000 residents in 2019 according to previously released census data, but those numbers fell with the 2020 Census and subsequent yearly estimates.

The Census report showed a rebound in population of large cities across the country, after a pandemic dip, but the recovery hasn’t been equal. Thirteen of the 15 fastest-growing cities were in the South.

Among cities of 250,000 or more, Atlanta’s 2.4% growth was the fastest year-over-year nationwide.

In Georgia and across the country, more people are also choosing farther-flung exurbs over inner-ring suburbs, driven by remote work opportunities and rising housing prices.

Growth across metro Atlanta

Overall, the population of metro Atlanta grew by about 1% between 2022 and 2023. Atlanta’s 2.4% growth was balanced out by modest losses across the region’s largest suburbs.

Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Roswell each lost a little over 1% of their populations, while Alpharetta, Stonecrest and Dunwoody saw smaller declines in population.

In Marietta, Smyrna and Brookhaven, populations stayed about the same from the previous year.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s fastest-growing places are more likely to be exurban communities than inner suburbs, according to the Census Bureau. Those cities are typically farther outside of the center of a metro area.

Cumming, about 40 miles from the center of Atlanta, saw a 23% increase from 2022 to 2023. The Forsyth County city has about 10,000 residents according to the estimates.

Other fast-growing metro cities include Loganville, Chamblee and Grayson, which all grew by 5% or more. Chattahoochee Hills, Kennesaw and Douglasville had growth rates of about 3%.

“Exurbs have sometimes been among the most rapidly growing communities, but this appears to be even more true now than before the pandemic,” Luke Rogers, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division, said in a news release Thursday.

Across the state

Other than Atlanta, the population of the state’s largest municipalities remained about the same between 2022 and 2023.

The only change to the state’s top 10 was Warner Robins, home to Robins Air Force Base. The Houston County city is now the state’s 10th largest, knocking Johns Creek out of the top 10.

South Fulton, Columbus, Savannah and Augusta-Richmond County each lost less than 1% of their population. Macon-Bibb County and Athens-Clarke County each gained less than a quarter of a percent.

The state’s fastest-growing municipalities include East Ellijay, Hoschton, Kingston, Port Wentworth and Walnut Grove.

McRae-Helena, a town of about 5,000 people in South Georgia, posted the state’s largest decline, losing 24% of its population. Byromville, which had just 400 residents in 2022, lost 16% of its population.

More houses for more people

Housing stock grew by 1.6% in Georgia between 2022 and 2023. About half the 72,000 new units statewide are in metro Atlanta. The growth in the region was fueled by 12,000 new homes in Fulton County. In Henry County, housing stock increased by 3% in a single year, the fastest growth in the metro area.

Statewide, Bartow County added new homes at the fastest rate with 5.3% growth.

Jackson, Haralson, Long, Meriwether and Dawson counties all experienced more than 4% growth in housing units.

Housing stock decreased in only two counties: Dougherty and Chattahoochee counties in Southwest Georgia. The decreases were small, however, with fewer than 20 lost in each county.