The most recent county-level data from the Census Bureau (2016 Population Estimates, released last week) allow us to analyze ttrends in county, metro, and state population numbers. A new article from Governing shows that urban counties in the Northern U.S. and Midwest have slowed in their rates of population growth, and in some cases have lost residents to non-urban counties.

How does this trend look in Georgia and metro Atlanta?

To compare “urban” and “non-urban” areas in Georgia, we defined all counties that belong to a Metropolitan Statistical Area as “urban” and the remaining counties as “non-urban.”

The chart below shows that in every year-over-year period from 2010 to 2016, urban areas had a greater increase in population than non-urban counties. Until 2015 – 2016, these non-urban counties as a whole had a declining population trend. While this trend has recently reversed to show population growth in non-urban counties, it does not reach the levels of growth seen in urban areas.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2010 – 2015 Population Estimates (July)

The second chart takes a closer look at this trend by focusing on the 10-county metro Atlanta region. Almost every county, every year, has experienced population growth, with the single exception of Clayton County in 2013, which decreased 0.5 percent from 2012 population numbers, but quickly regained this loss by growing almost one percent from 2014 – 2015. All counties in the 10-county Atlanta region have had a population increase from 2015 to 2016, with some growing faster than others.

Click on the county name in the legend to remove select counties from the chart view, and hover over the points on the lines to view the percentage change in population from the previous year for 2010 -2015.

The table below shows the 2015 and 2016 population estimates for the ten metro Atlanta counties.

County  2015 2016
Cherokee County              235,609              241,689
Clayton County              273,567              279,462
Cobb County              740,144              748,150
DeKalb County              732,758              740,321
Douglas County              140,671              142,224
Fayette County              110,546              111,627
Fulton County          1,007,803          1,023,336
Gwinnett County              892,926              907,135
Henry County              217,004              221,768
Rockdale County                88,678                89,355
10 county          4,439,706          4,505,067

Percentage change in population 2015 – 2016


  • 1.5% – 4.2%

  • 0.7% – 1.5%

  • -0.1% – 0.7%

  • -0.9% – -0.1%

  • -4.7% – -0.9

This map shows the percent change in population from 2015 – 2016 for every county in Georgia. The trend of recent and continued population growth in urban areas is clear here, with the counties in metro areas such as Atlanta and Savannah experiencing positive growth (purple). Many non-urban counties have seen a decrease in population over the past year (orange).

This map was made using Neighborhood Nexus.