As a legislator, I am constantly introduced to studies showing current trends that are impacting Georgia. None of these are as important as demographics.
Overall, Georgia is in a very good place. Numerous different studies show that we are now the best state in the entire nation to do business in. Savannah is the second largest port on the East Coast, the fourth largest port in America and Atlanta has the busiest airport in the entire world.
Georgia is growing…a lot. We’ve doubled our population since 1975 to 10 million people. We’re now the eighth most populated state in the nation, passing North Carolina and Michigan in the last 10 years. We just gained an extra Congressman last Census and will probably do so again in 2020, giving us 16 Electoral Votes. We only had 12 in 1980.
Where is our growth coming from? Not from Georgian babies, but from folks coming from outside our state. Up until 1970, more people left Georgia than came. This has changed dramatically since; our birth/death rate is roughly even while people keep flocking in, mostly from the North and from Florida. Remarkably, only 55 percent of Georgians here today were born in Georgia. In most Southern states, that number is around 85 percent. Most of these newcomers are Hispanic or Asian. Amazingly, more than 15 percent of Georgians now speak another language other than English at home.
Where are these people going? In short, to Southern Cities. Three of the top 20 fastest growing counties in the nation are centered around Atlanta (Henry, Fulton, Forsyth, and Gwinnett are our top four). Six of the top 50 and 9 of the top 100 counties are also in Georgia, centered around our other cities. Shockingly, 82 rural counties in Georgia (including Morgan) are actually shrinking, and 20 are less populous than they were in 1930! This is a nationwide trend.
Georgia is also getting more diverse. In ten short years (2025) we will become a minority majority state where Whites are 44 percent, Blacks are 32 percent, Hispanics are 16 percent and Asians are 8 percent of the population. Currently, we’re at 56 percent White, 30 percent Black, 9 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian. Nationwide birthrates in 1970 were 2.5 per woman. They are down now to 2.1 in Georgia; with Whites at 2.0, Blacks at 2.2, Hispanics at 3.5, and Asians at 1.4. These numbers will show up vividly in graduation rates for the Class of 2018: 40 percent will be White, 33 percent Black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent Asian.
The population is also getting older. These numbers are harder to articulate, but we are currently in a period where the Baby Boomers occupy the primary working years of 45-65 years of age. In ten short years, they will average over 65 and want to retire. The next generation who will be funding these Boomers’ Social Security and Health Care will struggle to pay the benefits of that much larger older population. This is a world-wide trend among First World nations.
Education is also a challenge. Nearly the entire South (Georgia included) has a disproportionate amount of High School dropouts. More to the point, by 2020 (five short years) there will be ¾ of a million NEW jobs in Georgia that will require a post-High School Degree. That is why Governor Deal is so keen on expanding Career Academies.
Those who fail to plan are planning to fail. It is incumbent on us state and local leaders to plan for these trends to ensure a successful future for the workers who are aging as well as our children who will soon become workers.
Dave Belton is the newly elected District 112 Georgia Representative. The Morgan and Newton County representative is serving in his first term in Georgia’s House. He is a resident of Morgan County.