Showing posts with label Georgia county population. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Georgia county population. Show all posts

Friday, October 15, 2021

Georgia’s counties struggle with declining populations

 In Georgia, 66 of the state’s 159 counties lost population between 2010 and 2020 according to newly released information from the 2020 Decennial Census. These losses occurred even as the state gained more than 1 million people over the same decade and grew by 10.6%.

In the majority of cases, counties lost people who were 18 years or older, although 17 of the 66 counties gained population in the 18 and older category even while losing more people under the age of 18.

Together, the 66 counties saw a net population decline of 71,178. In contrast one county, Gwinnett County, saw its population grow by 151,741 over the same time period.

Counties losing population tended to be primarily rural economic areas in the lower half of the state and not part of major metropolitan areas that could benefit from growth of nearby cities.

Counties with the largest population declines included

Dougherty  -8,775 (-9.3%)

Telfair  -4,023 (-24.4%)

Dooly  -3,710 (-24.9%)

McIntosh  -3,358 (-23.4%)

Crisp  -3,311 (-14.1%)

Sumter  -3,203 (-9.8%)

These counties also suffered significant declines in the number of people age 18 and older.

Counties with the largest losses of people age 18 and older included

Dougherty  -3,965 (-5.6%)

Telfair  -2,994 (-22.7%)

Dooly  -2,572 (-21.9%)

Tattnall  -2,460 (-12.2%)

McIntosh  -2,215 (-19.7%)

Crisp  -1,747 (-10.1%)

Racial makeup of counties with declining populations

The 66 counties combined saw a net loss of 59,762 people who identified themselves as While alone in the 2020 Census, and a net loss of 37,170 people who identified themselves as Black or African American alone. These losses were partially offset by 25,353 people who identified themselves as belonging to two or more races.

With Census respondents able to self-report their race, it is impossible to know if the increase in the number of people reporting as belonging to two or more races is due to increase marriages between races or rather that people are feeling more comfortable reporting that their family background includes more than one race.

Dooly, McIntosh, and Telfair counties

Three counties – Dooly, McIntosh, and Telfair – recorded population declines greater than 20% between 2010 and 2020 with declines of -24.9%, -23.4% and -24.4% respectively.

For Dooly County, the number of people identifying themselves as White alone dropped by 31.1%, Black or African American alone declined by 25.3%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 127.9% from 136 in 2010 to 310 in 2020.

In McIntosh County, the number of people identifying themselves as While alone dropped by 18.9%, Black or African American alone declined by 38%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 175.1% from 177 in 2010 to 487 in 2020.

In Telfair County, the number of people identifying themselves as While alone dropped by 22.7%, Black or African American alone declined by 23.1%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 6% from 285 in 2010 to 302 in 2020.

In all three counties, the number of people age 18 or older declined at a slower rate than the overall decline in population with people 18 or older in Dooly County dropping by 21.9%, McIntosh County declining by 19.7%, and Telfair County seeing a drop of 22.7%.

Revitalizing rural counties

As people move out of these rural counties even as the state significantly increases its overall population, the challenge of retaining and even enticing people to move into these areas becomes both more urgent and more difficult.

Declining population leads to declines in opportunities, which leads to further declines in population.

The loss of older residents is significant because they provide incomes that support local businesses. The population losses also impact local tax collections, property values and other areas such as medical services as fewer people result in a declining need for local goods and services.

Georgia faces many hurdles in its counties located far from its largest metro areas. First, there is the question of whether to attempt to reverse population declines or whether to readjust to fewer people residing in large parts of the state.

If the state wants to bring people back to these areas, what resources are needed and how much of the state’s limited budget should be spent on this attempt especially as growing metro areas such as Atlanta and Savannah put in claims for state resources?

Finally, the question arises whether smaller counties that are losing population may be better served by merging and creating larger counties that can more efficiently serve their populations?

Rather than take a piecemeal approach, it would be good if state planners considered these larger questions before undertaking projects that at best might stem the tide of population declines, and at worse steal resources that could be better used.