A glance out the window is all you need to know the Atlanta region is growing fast. Cranes are busy throwing up the next high rise, businesses are expanding, and moving trucks are frequent sights on the roads.
And according to the region’s latest long-range forecast, the growth will continue, in a big way.
By 2050, we’ll have 2.9 million new neighbors, and a total population of 8.6 million. To put the growth in perspective, it’s as if all of metro Denver will move to the Atlanta region over the next 30 years. Well, minus the skis.
The Atlanta region will also get much more diverse, with a fast-growing population of older adults. More on that in a bit.
First, some context. The Atlanta Regional Commission issues long-range population and employment forecasts every four years, when the agency prepares a major update to the Atlanta Region’s Plan, the blueprint for metro Atlanta’s future.
You can find a full breakdown of the data in a Regional Snapshot from ARC’s data team. But here are the highlights:
Metro Atlanta to get much – much! – more diverse
While the headline to the 2050 forecasts understandably is population growth (that 2.9 million figure again), metro Atlanta’s rapid diversification deserves close attention.
Take a look at the change that’s forecast to occur by 2050:
- The share of white residents will drop to 31%, compared to 47.5% in 2015.
- The share of Hispanic residents will reach 21%, up from 12% in 2015.
- The share of black residents will remain steady at about 33%.
- The share of residents of “other” race and ethnic backgrounds, a category that includes Asians, will increase to 14%, compared to 8% in 2015.
So, why is the Atlanta region diversifying so rapidly? Many factors are at play, including fertility rates, which have been higher for minority populations than for whites.
Most metro areas are experiencing similar trend lines. And we’re already seeing it here in the Atlanta region. Consider that between 2010 and 2019, metro Atlanta added 81,338 white (non-Hispanic) residents, compared to 351,561 black residents, 119,713 Asian residents, and 103,753 Hispanic residents.
Region’s share of older adults set to rise
In 2015, 4% — or 223,000 people – were age 75 or older. That figure is set to reach 12% in 2050, or about 1 million people. And one in three residents will be age 55 or older.
This will have a profound impact on our region, affecting everything from housing and healthcare to transportation.
What’s driving this trend? Think back to the 1990s and 2000s. The Atlanta region was one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Many of the Boomers and Gen-Xers who flocked here back then have stayed, and they will age over the next 30 years.
That doesn’t necessarily that metro Atlanta will get old. We’ll still be relatively young compared to areas in the Northeast and Midwest. More than 2.2 million people will be age 22 or younger in 2050.
At the county level, plenty of interesting trends to note
Data geek alert: Let’s dig into the numbers at the county level.
Forsyth County is forecast to grow at the fastest rate, more than doubling in population over the next three decades. Coming in second: Henry County at 70%. Rockdale County will grow the slowest, at 27%.
In the horserace for most populous county in the region, Gwinnett is forecast to finally take the crown from Fulton. But it’ll be close: The forecast says Gwinnett will edge Fulton by just 11,000 residents – a whisker when you’re looking this far out.
Overall, the largest population increases are expected to occur in several areas: parts of intown Atlanta; in the northern suburbs along the I-75, I-85 and Ga. 400 corridors; and on the Southside near the airport.
Gwinnett will remain the region’s most diverse county, with a population that’s 27% black, 28% Hispanic, 18% white, and 26% “other” – a category that includes Asians.
What about jobs?
The forecasts also show that 1.2 million jobs will be added, bringing the region’s total to 4.7 million, including the self-employed.
The largest employment gains will occur in the following sectors: health care and social assistance; professional, scientific and technical; and construction. The largest job losses are forecast to occur in the manufacturing and utilities sectors.
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.