Fulton County Hits 1 Millions Residents, But the Atlanta Region Continues to Sprawl

Updated county population estimates were recently released by the US Census Bureau and the big news is that the 10-county metro region’s population is projected to have grown to 4.5 million while Fulton County passed the 1 million mark.

The Census Bureau estimates that between 2014 and 2015 Fulton County added just over 14,000 residents to reach 1,010,562 total residents. Gwinnett County added the most new residents with just over 18,000 new residents and Forsyth County had the highest growth rate at about 4.7 percent. The chart below shows the updated 2015 population numbers for each county (blue bars) and the rate of growth between 2014 and 2015 for each county (orange line).

Pop Change Percent 2014 2015

Looking at the new numbers in the context of the rest of the decade shows a similar picture. Between 2010 and 2015, Forsyth County grew at the fastest rate followed by Gwinnett, Cherokee, and Fulton Counties. The chart below shows the percent change between 2014 and 2015 and between 2010 and 2015 for each county.

Pop Change Percent.png

While the center of the metro area continues to grow, the suburbs, unsurprisingly, continue to grow as well. While they City of Atlanta has shown solid growth, between 2000 and 2015 the metropolitan area increasingly succumbed to sprawl. The charts below show the share of the total 10-county metro region’s population by county. Back in 2000, Fulton County was home to 24 percent of the area’s population, but that number fell to 22 percent in 2015. This is largely due to more and more people moving to suburban and exurban counties, specifically Forsyth and Gwinnett Counties.

Forsyth’s share of metro region’s population grew from 3 percent to 5 percent within the 15 year period and Gwinnett grew from 16 percent to 20 percent while Cobb, Dekalb, and Fulton Counties all saw marked losses. The numbers between 2010 and 2015, though, may paint a better picture for Cobb and Fulton Counties; while Dekalb continued to lose its share of the Metro population during that five year period, Fulton, Cobb, Forsyth, and Cherokee Counties all retained their respective shares.

The fact that Fulton County’s and Forsyth County’s share of the metro population stabilized during that five year period could be due to the fact that the recession hit suburban and exurban areas harder than more urban areas. While population growth came to a dramatic halt in suburban and exurban jurisdictions during the recession, cities and closer-in suburbs saw less housing volatility and tended to outpace suburban and exurban areas in growth. Between 2010 and 2011, the City of Atlanta grew at a faster rate than all other area counties except for Forsyth County. Forsyth County is a bit of an outlier; it continued to grow while other exurban counties saw little or no growth, though its growth rate was much slower than the decade leading up to the recession and Atlanta’s growth rate was the same or higher

We’ll have to wait until July to get population estimates for cities and the more detailed demographic and economic numbers for counties.

1 reply »

  1. This article is riddled with confusion. First of all, Atlanta is not the core of the metro area. It is Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton and Dekalb by definition and when talking about economic center then we’re talking about Cumberland, Town Center CID, Gwinnett Center CID, Perimeter Center, midtown, Lindbergh, downtown, Windward/Northpoint and airport. That is the economic core of the metro area and population patterns will radiate from those employment centers. Defining that as “sprawl” is completely missing the point and no investor would make that mistake. Secondly, when it comes to density, much of the inner core is more densely populated and has more business and offices than Atlanta as a whole. Obviously, midtown, Lindbergh, and downtown are pretty dense, but half of Atlanta (most of Buckhead not on Peachtree Rd) is less urban than Smyrna, Marietta, and Alpheretta, for instance.

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