Those of us living in Gwinnett, Georgia recognize the diverse changes all around us. Just like in some parts of the United States, the white share of the population is declining as Hispanic, Asian and black populations grow. We can look around us and see that.

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that 109 counties have become majority non-white since 2000.

The unusual aspect to this growth is that Gwinnett, with nearly a million people, had just about the highest diverse growth in the state. What is more interesting, is that some small counties in Georgia have had tremendous changes in their non-white population. Note in the table that that includes the smaller counties of Decatur (Bainbridge), Crisp (Cordele) and Telfair (McRae), areas where you might think the population was more stable.

In Metro Atlanta, only Rockdale (43 percent), Henry (38 percent) and Douglas (37 percent) counties have had faster growth in the non-white population than has Gwinnett, at 31 percent, in the 2000 to 2018 era.  

The Pew study shows that from 2000 to 2018, 109 counties in 22 states, from California to Kansas to North Carolina, went from majority white to majority nonwhite – that is, counties where non-Hispanic whites are no longer the majority, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. (The analysis includes only counties with a minimum population of 10,000 in 2018. These counties represent 77 percent of the nation’s 3,142 counties and include 99 percent of the U.S. population.)

Overall, 293 U.S. counties were majority nonwhite in 2018. Most of these counties are concentrated in California, the South and on the East Coast, with few in the country’s middle section.

In 21 of the 25 biggest U.S. counties by population, nonwhite groups together make up more than half of residents. 

Another way to highlight the nation’s changing demographics is to look at how many counties shifted the opposite way. From 2000 to 2018, just two counties went from minority white to majority white: Calhoun County in South Carolina and West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana, each with relatively small populations of about 15,000.

Among the 109 counties that between 2000 and 2018 shifted from majority white to majority nonwhite, 26 were at least 60 percent white in 2000. Counties in Georgia stand out for having five of the 10 biggest percentage point swings in their white population share. (These 10 counties also had the largest percentage point drop among all U.S. counties on this measure.

Another way to consider these demographic changes is to look at these suburban or urban Georgia counties, with big shift to non-white majority, and see how the voting turned out in 2018 in the race for governor.  In all of them, they heavily favored the Democrat candidate, with one county, Rockdale, giving her 67 percent of its vote.

But look at the new-majority smaller counties. All three continued to support the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and by hefty margins (67-63-60 percent.) 

What this tells us is two things:

  1. In the smaller counties, the now dominant minorities appear not registering to vote as quickly as in the larger counties.
  2. It would appear that the smaller counties perhaps have lower-paying jobs, Maybe agricultural in nature, not requiring as high an educational standard for their newly-arrived minority workers. 

The Pew study shows just how Georgia is changing, and may be suggesting even similar changes in the future. 

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Editor's Note: this story first appeared at the GwinettForum.com. The images used in the story are from the Pew Research Center (fair use) – please show your gratitude by getting involved in the great work of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.