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New census data shows how Georgia changed from 2020 to 2021

Georgia’s population increased between July 2020 and July 2021, according to annual data from the Census Bureau. The state’s 2021 population was roughly 10.8 million, an increase of almost 74,000 residents, or about 0.7%, over 2020. New population estimates out today include information on age, race, and ethnicity in American counties and cities for the period up to July 2021.

Like the rest of the country, Georgia is aging ever-so-slightly, Kristie Wilder, demographer in the Census Bureau’s population division, said. The state’s median age rose from 37.3 in 2020 to 37.5 in 2021. The fastest growing age group in Georgia was the 65 and older population, she added. That population increased by 3.2% over the one-year period from 2020 to 2021. Cities like Atlanta, Macon, and Savannah mirror the state trend, Wilder said. Each city’s median age ticked up slightly and the 65 and older age group increased the most of any age group. “It’s in line with national trends over the last year. Every state got a little older, except for Maine,” said Wilder. “The nation as a whole is aging slightly.”

The year-to-year estimates of key American population data take into account births, deaths, and net migration, Wilder said.

Georgians may not be surprised that Atlanta picked up almost 43,000 residents between July 2020 and July 2021.

Smaller towns like Gainesville, Hinesville, Warner Robins, Savannah, and the Athens metropolitan areas all had populations that increased by 1% or more in that period.

Gainesville’s population rose to around 207,000 in 2021, up over around 204,000 just the year before. That’s a net increase of 3,780 residents, or 1.9% Savannah's population also increased by almost 5,000 residents.

Albany and Columbus both decreased in population size. Albany’s population decreased by 644 and Columbus’s 1,605 people between 2020 and 2021.

The Jefferson metro population – which for the Census is the same as Jackson County – increased by about 3,500 residents over the past year, or a whopping 4.7% growth. Jefferson’s population now tops 80,000.

The area is seeing growth in industrial real estate and ecommercerelated warehouses, John Scott, vice president and director of economic development for the Jackson County chamber of commerce, said. He pointed to the SK battery plant which manufactures lithium-ion batteries for automobiles.

The uptick in population is noticeable in the area, Scott said. Families have been drawn to the area from cities like Atlanta or even New York because of quality schools and jobs.

“We keep having to build schools,” Scott said. He also pointed to an increase in single-family home growth as evidence of young families moving to the area.

Scott’s observations about an influx of young families to the Jefferson area seem to be reflected in the census data.

In Jefferson, it was the 25-to-64 age group that saw the largest increase, Wilder said, which is different from the Georgia-wide trend of the largest increases in the 65-and-over set.

Among other small cities, Statesboro, St. Mary’s, Cornelia, and Cedartown all picked up more than a one percent population increase.

Americus and Bainbridge each lost around 300 residents during the period from July 2020 to July 2021, a one percent decrease for both cities.

The latest data also shows that the nation is increasingly diverse, and the Georgia data on race and ethnicity reflects that, said Wilder. “If you're a local business owner and you want to better understand your community, understand the local demographic, it would be useful in that,” Wilder said. “Everyday citizens… will find the estimates useful when trying to better understand the demographic makeup of a particular geography, whether it's their county, whether it's their state,” Wilder said.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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