The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population counts for counties and metro areas from last year’s decennial Census, providing a treasure trove of data on growth and diversity in our region.  

The bottom line: Metro Atlanta continues to grow at a healthy clip. And we’re getting much more diverse. 

Let’s dive into the numbers: 

Metro Atlanta is still booming

Metro ATL is the ninth largest metro area in the country, with a population of nearly 6.1 million (this is the 29-county metropolitan statistical area, a bigger chunk than ARC’s 11-county region). That’s up about 800,000, or 15%, since 2010. Among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas, only Dallas and Houston grew faster. 

The growth rate, however, cooled down a bit compared to previous decades for the 11-county area. From 2010-2020, the annual rate of population growth was 1.5%, half of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s. 

The biggest driver of our growth: jobs. In the past decade, jobs grew at a healthy clip of 1.7% annually, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It’s clear that over the past 10 years we put the Great Recession in our rearview mirror and resumed relatively strong growth. 

We’re growing both inside… and out! 

We’ve all seen the construction cranes and new condos cropping up across the City of Atlanta. The new Census data show just how many new residents called the city home in the past decade: about 78,000 people. 

The city’s total population is nearly 500,000 – the highest Census count ever for the city, topping the previous high of 495,000 in 1970. This is significant, given that Atlanta’s population declined for decades after that, and had 420,000 residents in 2010. 

The suburbs continued to show strong growth as well, with the fastest rates in the outer counties of Forsyth (43%) and Cherokee (24%), followed by Gwinnett and Henry. 

The population of the metro area’s five largest counties (Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb, and Clayton, in that order) all grew by double digits between 2010 and 2020.  

We’re getting much more diverse 

Only three (Cherokee, Forsyth, and Fayette) of the region’s 11 counties have a majority White population, and these shares are declining quickly compared to previous decades. In fact, our White population shrank by 2% from 2010-2020. 

White residents now represent 38.5% of the population in the metro area, followed by Black (36%), Hispanic (13%), and Asian (8%). The Asian population grew 55%, faster by far than any other racial or ethnic group in the region. 

Forsyth County, one of the nation’s fastest growing counties since the 1990s, saw its Asian population quadruple between 2010 and 2020, to 45,203. Asians now represent 18% of Forsyth’s population, the largest share of any Georgia county, followed by Gwinnett (13%). 

Housing units aren’t keeping up with population growth 

Housing affordability trends raise concerns that the region isn’t building enough residential stock to accommodate its growth. Metro Atlanta’s 11 core counties added 238,000 housing units over the past decade, while adding 684,000 people. 

One way to gauge the trend is to look at the ratio of housing units added to population growth. This past decade, we saw a ratio of .4, compared to .5 in the decade earlier – a 20% drop. 

It’s a potentially troubling trend. But we caution against making too much of these numbers just yet. We’ll know more in the coming months when the Census Bureau releases housing (multifamily vs. single family) and household data (single vs. married). 

Atlanta region is fueling Georgia’s growth 

Though the Peach State’s population grew by 11% in the past decade (faster than the national rate of 7%), the 11-county metro Atlanta grew faster: 16%. 

And metro growth helped propel Georgia to grow faster than any of the 10 largest states, with the exception of powerhouses Texas (16%) and Florida (15%). 

Check out 33n for more on the most recent decennial Census data.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.