DeKalb’s population growth continues along with other metro counties

As DeKalb County—founded in December 1822— approaches its 200th anniversary, it marks a jump in population that brings it to a total estimate of 775,022. DeKalb added 5,430 new residents in the past year, according to population estimates released earlier in the month by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). This growth represents a 0.7 percent increase from the 2021 estimate.

ARC is the official planning agency for the 11-county Atlanta Region, made up of Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, as well as the city of Atlanta and 74 other cities. The Atlanta Regional Commission, according to is website, serves as a catalyst for regional progress by focusing leadership, attention and planning resources on key regional issues.

With little more than 10,000 residents when the county was carved out of parts of Henry, Gwinnett and Fayette counties in 1822, DeKalb now has a total estimated population that exceeds that of the entire state of Alaska.

Until the 1950s, DeKalb remained a largely agricultural county. With its conversion to an urban area the county saw the largest population leap in its history. The county grew from 136,395 in 1950 to 256,782 just a decade later—an increase of 88.3 percent, according to the decennial U.S. Census report. A smaller, but still significant jump took place during the next decade. The 1970 census placed DeKalb County’s population at 415,387—a 61.8 percent increase compared with the previous 10-year Census.

The county’s population continued to grow at a steady pace of more than 15 percent a year until the first decade of the 21st century, when growth dipped to 3.9 percent. Between 2010 and 2020, however, the county was again growing at a brisk rate, showing an increase of 10.5 percent between 2010 and 2020. During that same time period, Georgia’s population grew by 10.3 percent and the U.S. population grew 6.5 percent.

DeKalb at the end of the 20th century was the second largest county in the state. Although it is again growing rapidly, so are other counties in metro Atlanta area. DeKalb is now the fourth largest county, trailing Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb.

Although it is not the largest county by population, DeKalb has the highest density rate of any Georgia county at 2,854.9 residents per square mile. By comparison, Fulton County, which has the largest population, has a density rate of 2,025.3 persons per square mile, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Each of metro Atlanta’s 11 counties and the city of Atlanta saw population gains in the past year, pushing the region’s total up by 64,940 new residents, to 5.1 million. Gwinnett and Fulton counties added the most residents. The metropolitan area alone now exceeds what had been the population of the entire state 50 years ago—4.8 million.

Calling the recent population gains “a testament to the quality of life metro Atlanta offers,” ARC Executive Director Anna Roach commented, “We are clearly recovering from the initial shock of the pandemic in 2020. These population gains are encouraging. As we look to the future, we must continue to work on housing affordability, access to transit, transportation infrastructure and other critical issues so that we foster a region where everyone thrives.”

Annual regional population growth, however, still trails the average annual increase metro Atlanta experienced in the 2010s.

Driving this year’s higher population gains in metro Atlanta are relatively strong increases in building permits and a fuller recovery from pandemic-driven job losses, according to ARC. Metro Atlanta had the second highest rate of job growth in the nation among large metro areas, at 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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