CALHOUN, Ga. -- A demographics expert says the Peach State is looking more and more like the Golden State.
"Georgia is the New California, and that's something people don't like to hear you say," Mathew Hauer, an applied demographer with the University of Georgia, told Northwest Georgia officials.
Speaking at a Northwest Georgia Regional Commission meeting last week, Hauer said the label is based on an influx of immigrants and rapid population growth.
Hauer said 51 percent of people who live in Georgia were not born there, and he labeled metro Atlanta as a "new gateway" for immigrants from all around the globe.
"We think of Chinatown and Little Italy -- we don't think of Henry County," he said, referring to the metro county south of Atlanta.
And that immigrant influx is making an impact on the population.
In 1980, 98 percent of Georgians were either black or white. But in the 2010 census, Hauer said, only 86 percent were black or white with 9 percent Hispanics and 5 percent other ethnicities.
"Georgia is no longer a black-and-white state," he said.
Fort Oglethorpe Councilman Louis Hamm said the population changes will be felt most immediately by the schools because more pupils mean more desks, classrooms and teachers.
"That is something that our school boards have to work on," he said.
Hauer's statistics agree.
He projects 1.3 million school- and college-age children in the state by 2030. Of those, one in five will be Hispanic, he said.
"That's a lot of college freshmen," Hauer said.
Hauer also pointed to statistics showing the high jobless rates among state residents with less education and discussed how that can put a strain on the penal system.
"It's either educate them or incarcerate them," he said.
Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said the impact of growth is felt across all divisions of government.
"It's schools, but it's more than schools," he said.
Growth, especially among non-English speaking groups, increases demand on county services and can change the way the county delivers service, "even answering the phone," Babb said.
But Whitfield is "well ahead of the curve in adjusting to the demographic changes," Babb said.
In Whitfield, almost 32 percent, or 33,000 people, out of 102,599 residents are Hispanics.
Catoosa County Commissioner Jim Cutler said the region is "fortunate" to have growth compared to counties in Middle and South Georgia that are losing residents.
"As the population grows, so does the opportunity for economic growth," Cutler said.
Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...