June 7, 2011 | Albany Herald | Original Article

Demography expert: Hispanics will double in Georgia over the next eight years

ALBANY, Ga. — One of the nation’s top demographic experts said Monday that Georgia’s Hispanic population is expected to double in just over eight years, based on growth trends developed from census data.

The state’s fastest growing ethnicity, the Hispanic populace in Georgia grew by more than 96 percent between 2000 and 2010, Warren Brown, director of Applied Demography at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, said.

Brown and his contemporary, Matt Hauer, explained various conclusions that demographers have drawn about Georgia population, race and immigration trends using the newly released 2010 census data.

“Georgia is the new California,” Hauer said. “Because when we think about immigrant destinations you think of places like California and New York. ... But what we’re seeing is that there are new places where there are rising immigrant gateways, and there are four Georgia counties that are some of the fastest-growing in the nation.”

Those counties — Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Clayton — came somewhat as a shock to members of the Kiwanis Club audience Monday, given that migrant farm work in southwest and south-central Georgia is such a booming industry.

Brown and Hauer also drilled down the census data to the metro, county and political district levels to show growth and declination trends both in terms of population and political representation.
For instance, the duo pointed out that the Albany metro area, which consists of Dougherty, Lee, Worth, Baker and Terrell counties, largely suffered losses in terms of population.

Of the 159 Georgia counties, Dougherty County ranked 156th in terms of population growth, Worth 137th, Baker 150th and Terrell 158th.

Lee, which showed modest growth, ranked 60th.

Gwinnett, Fulton and Henry counties topped the list.

Politically, the two said what most people in this region have long known: that political districts will have to grow geographically, which will translate into less representation when compared to the metro Atlanta regions.

“If you’re in a really growing state like Georgia and your county isn’t growing, then you’re really being left behind,” Brown said.

Brown was asked a spot-on question from among the Kiwanians. One astute audience member asked about the accuracy of the count, given the low participation rates in rural counties.

Brown answered candidly, saying that he’s spoken with the higher-ups at the Census Bureau about finding ways to increase participation.

The percentage of received returns in Georgia ranged from 90 percent to 28 percent in rural areas.

“There are problems with the census. We’re a mobile society that is increasingly becoming harder to count. ... It’s a problem, and we’re concerned about it going forward because it’s only going to get worse,” he said.

Brown added that he and others like him who have the ear of the census leadership are pushing for more complete count committees and community-based efforts to reach out to those who are traditionally hard to count so that an accurate count can be done.