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Posts tagged ‘Gwinnett County’

Revisiting the Gwinnett County-South Georgia comparison (Part I)

I’ve made reference in at least one earlier post to my poor and often meandering research habits.  Well, I’ve done it again.  Recently I started thinking about updating a post I published in December 2016 comparing 56 South Georgia counties to Gwinnett County alone and somehow wound up researching global birth rates.

It’s really not that big a leap.  In that 2016 piece I didn’t spend much time on population trends.  I used the relative populations of South Georgia and Gwinnett as a jumping off point to compare their performance in economics, education, health status and other areas. 

This time around, I found myself digging into county-level and regional population trends and pretty quickly got to the nut of the problem.

South Georgia needs more babies.

Actually, the problem is even more basic than that: it needs more young people who can produce babies.

Truth is, much of the planet has been slacking off in the procreation department for a while now.  I would argue that this isn’t altogether a bad thing (because, I-285), but, globally, it’s gotten to be a head-scratcher and has a lot of demographers in a dither; one even called it an “epidemic.” 

Things reached a point several years ago, according to The Washington Post, that school children in Denmark were being taught how to get pregnant – not only that, but that having children was patriotic.  A Danish travel agency launched “Do it for Denmark,” an ad campaign that encouraged couples to take vacations and conceive children.

When a Swedish couple has a new baby, the Post reported, either the mother or father can take off 480 days and still receive 80 percent of their previous salaries.  France and Germany pay a monthly allowance to families with children under the age of 20, and France grants a host of other discounts (including for public transportation and movie theaters) to the country’s children.

Now, of course, all this smacks just a teeny bit of socialism, so it’s probably going to be a tough sell in South Georgia.  And given Georgia’s fondness for abstinence-only sex education, I’m not sure teaching South Georgia students how to have children has much of a chance either, although I don’t really think it’s necessary; I’m pretty sure they’ve been figuring that out on their own for a while now.

The real problem is they’re leaving South Georgia and doing it somewhere else.  Between 2014 and 2019, the 56 counties that make up Trouble in God’s Country’s South Georgia region saw an exodus of just over 5,000 men and women between the prime family-building ages of 18 and 35.  The perfectly predictable result of this trend is that the region is producing fewer babies.  South Georgia’s baby crop peaked in 2007 at just under 18,000 and has been on a steady downhill slide ever since; in 2019, the number of new births was 14,153 (which was actually up a little from the year before). 

Another part of South Georgia’s demographic problem is that its population is getting older and more and more of them are dying (or, as I once heard an actual demographer describe the situation, “aging out” of the population).  The region is still producing more births than deaths, but (as the graph below shows) those trend lines are clearly converging. 

Over the past five years, South Georgia has seen its number of births decline by an average of about 150 a year while deaths have risen by nearly 250 a year.  If that trend continues, the two lines will cross in 2023 – and that’s before factoring in the impact of Covid-19 on the region.

Which is likely to be considerable. Scholars at the Brookings Institution issued a report in June forecasting that Covid-19 might cut total births in the U.S. by 500,000.

In 2018 (the last year for which we have death data), 28 of the 56 South Georgia counties reported more deaths than births. That’s a new high and a continuation of a trend that started about a decade ago.  In 2009, only a half-dozen South Georgia counties were suffering such a deficit. Given the devastation Covid-19 has already levied in Southwest Georgia, it seems inconceivable that this trend will reverse itself anytime soon.

Having babies, of course, isn’t the only way to increase population.  The other way is to attract more people to move into an area, but South Georgia isn’t doing well on that front either.  Thirty-six of the 56 counties had smaller populations in 2019 than five years earlier.

Twenty-six South Georgia counties lost population due to both out-migration and drops in the number of births. These included such important commercial and population centers as Colquitt County (Moultrie), Dougherty County (Albany), Thomas County (Thomasville) and Tift County (Tifton).  Virtually alone among major South Georgia communities boasting even modest population increases (including a few more babies) were Lowndes County (Valdosta) and Bulloch County (Statesboro). 

As it happens, South Georgia (and no doubt much of rural America) is on the bleeding edge of this global challenge.  Demographers and public health authorities are fretting about “inverted age structures” and suggesting that, as Professor Christopher Murray of the University of Washington told futurism.com, “we’ll have to reorganize societies.”

As hyperbolic and audacious as that might sound, it’s not totally crazy. It’s pretty much what South Georgia is up against.  By any rational assessment, its current societal structures are broken.  As I’ll detail in a follow-up piece, much of its economy is shrinking, it’s losing ground educationally, and its healthcare delivery system was fragile even before Covid-19 hit. As I was finishing up this post, the AJC reported that the only hospital in tiny Randolph County, which has the fourth-highest Covid-19 case rate in the state, would close in 90 days.

The question, of course, is what to do and how to go about it.  As it happens, the Republican- and rural-dominated House Rural Development Council, casting about a couple of years ago for strategies to revitalize their communities, actually stumbled toward a quasi-socialistic, semi-European idea: they proposed granting a $6,000 tax credit to anybody who would move to rural Georgia.  That idea went nowhere, however, after House Speaker David Ralston politely declared it DOA soon after it was floated.

Maybe they need to revive the idea but go bigger, and with a different twist: offer cash payments and/or tax credits not just to anybody, but to young people who a.) have certain educational credentials and/or needed skill sets and b.) are willing to move and start families in select rural Georgia communities that still have a pulse. In other words, strategically recolonize dying parts of the state that still have a chance at revival and rejuvenation and focus on them (and not all, in my estimation, do have such a chance).

If an idea like that still can’t get traction, they can always think about plagiarizing that Danish travel agency. 

“Do it for Dougherty” has a catchy ring to it.

Three-fourths of Georgia’s GDP now produced north of the gnat line

About three months ago I stumbled onto a December 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that included four years of newly developed county-level gross domestic product (GDP) data.  BEA billed that new set of data as a prototype and announced it would be coming out with an expanded report in December 2019.

That happened today.  This morning, BEA put out 18 years of county-level GDP data for most of the counties in the nation, including all 159 in Georgia, along with an update of its long-standing Total Personal Income and Per Capita Income reports.  So far, in sifting through the data, I haven’t turned up any real blockbuster news, but it does contain a number of interesting nuggets that are worth reporting.

Including:

  • As of 2018, fully three-fourths of the state’s gross domestic product was being generated north of the gnat line. My Trouble in God’s Country 12-county Metro Atlanta region and 41-county North Georgia region accounted for $396.9 billion of the state’s $529.1 billion GDP – or 75.01 percent.  This isn’t a huge surprise, but it is a first, and it represents the high point so far in a steady trend that developed several years ago as the state was clawing its way out of the Great Recession.
  • That divide would probably be even bigger except for the fact that Metro Atlanta got hammered worse than the rest of the state by the Great Recession. I’ve seen that pattern in other economic data – including Internal Tax Revenue data – and this new GDP data simply confirms it.  In 2008, Georgia’s total GDP fell $9.69 billion; of that, $8.26 billion – just over 85 percent of the total loss – came out of Metro Atlanta’s hide.  In 2009, the state’s overall GDP contraction was even bigger – another $17 billion – but the damage was a little more evenly spread; Metro Atlanta’s $11.5 billion loss represented only 67.6 percent of the state’s overall contraction for that year.
  • What’s more, most of the rest of the state initially recovered more quickly from the Great Recession than did Metro Atlanta. In 2010, every region except South Georgia showed a little improvement over 2009 – and South Georgia was basically flat.  Indeed, by 2010 Coastal Georgia and Middle Georgia were back to their 2007 pre-Great Recession levels.  It took Metro Atlanta until 2013 to match its 2007 GDP level.  TIGC’s 41-county North Georgia region took another two years – until 2015 – to get all the way back to pre-recession levels.  South Georgia’s recovery has lagged the other regions.  While its initial hit was relatively modest – down to $34.9 billion in 2008 from $35.7 billion in 2007 – its GDP has bobbed up and down slightly for a full decade, and it didn’t top its 2007 GDP level until 2018.
  • While the Metro Atlanta and North Georgia post-recession recoveries were a little slow getting started, their growth has accelerated over the past five years and easily outpaced the rest of the state. From 2014 through 2018, Metro Atlanta’s GDP grew by 22 percent while North Georgia’s expanded by 15.3 percent.  Coastal Georgia’s GDP grew by a relatively healthy 12.2 percent, but both Middle Georgia and South Georgia were stuck in single-digits – 7.5 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.  Over that five-year period, the state’s GDP grew by a total of $78.3 billion.  Of that, $68.4 billion – or 87.4 percent – was north of the gnat line.

This table summarizes GDP by TIGC region for selected years and shows both the dollar growth and the percent growth for the most recent five-year period.

Regional GDP Chart

One way of highlighting the widening divide between North and South (and between Metro Atlanta and the rest of the state) is to revisit my comparison from three years ago of all 56 counties in interior South Georgia to Gwinnett County alone (see map).  South Georgia vs Gwinnett County

When I wrote that piece, I found that Gwinnett County, with roughly three-fourths the population of South Georgia, was outperforming South Georgia on every metric I could find – taxes paid, educational achievement, population health, etc.  At the time, the county-level GDP data wasn’t available.

Now that it is, it offers a fascinating addendum to my original comparison – and the data suggest that the Gwinnett-South Georgia gap is getting wider yet.  Going all the way back to 2001, Gwinnett County and South Georgia had very comparable GDPs; South Georgia’s was actually a little bigger — $32.5 billion to $30.8 billion.  As the graph below indicates, South Georgia and Gwinnett County remained at rough parity for about a decade, straight through the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath.

South Ga vs Gwinnett County GDP

But, like Metro Atlanta overall, as Gwinnett County began to recover, it did so at an accelerating pace and has widened its gap with South Georgia.  As of 2018, Gwinnett County’s GDP was nearly $44.2 billion versus just under $36 billion for all of South Georgia.  In the last five years, Gwinnett County’s GDP growth was more than three times that of South Georgia’s.

Another picture to be teased out of the GDP data has to do with county-specific growth rates, and I plan to follow up shortly with a post about that.  But here’s a teaser: Thirty-nine counties had smaller GDPs in 2018 than they did in 2001.  Perhaps predictably, the vast majority were small rural counties, but two were significant regional hub counties: Bibb (Macon) and Floyd (Rome).

Watch this space.

A first look at county-level GDP (with new maps and graphics)

First, a brief announcement: Trouble in God’s Country has a new toy.  I’ve known for a while that I needed some way beyond mere words to communicate all the data I’ve piled up, and recently I began looking around out here on the internet at various mapping programs.  Most of them gave me a headache.

But eventually I found my way to a web-based program called Tableau Public, and then got kickstarted in the use of the program with the help of a couple of smart young Tableau pros.  Apparently old dogs can learn new tricks.

I am, however, very much a Tableau newbie and am still figuring out how to do various things with the software.  In the post that follows, for instance, I would have liked to have been able to embed one of my new live interactive maps or charts, but I haven’t quite been able to break the code on that yet.  Instead, I’ve had to settle for using this static map and including a link, in the body of the post below, that will take you to a little interactive material at Tableau Public’s website.

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With that as preface, herewith some further notes on the widening economic divide between Metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia:

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), a unit of the Commerce Department, last December published (to virtually no fanfare, as nearly as I can determine) the very first county-level gross domestic product (GDP) figures ever produced.  BEA billed the new data as a prototype, but still, you’d have thought it would have been a bigger deal.

A dive into the Georgia data suggests a couple of things.  First, it basically confirms that nearly two-thirds of the state’s economic muscle is concentrated in TIGC’s 12-county Metro Atlanta region.  The most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data available, for the 2016 tax year, puts Metro Atlanta’s share of the state’s federal taxes at 65.8 percent.  The new BEA data puts Metro Atlanta’s share of 2015 GDP at 63.8 percent – but rising fast.

The real news here is, indeed, the growth rate.  BEA’s new prototype includes data for the years 2012 through 2015.  Over that period, Georgia’s overall GDP expanded from $444.1 billion to $513.1 billion – an increase of just under $69 billion, or 15.53 percent.

But $50 billion of that growth – 72.5 percent – took place in Metro Atlanta.  As a result, Metro Atlanta’s share of GDP expanded 1.4 percentage points in just four years.  In my experience, these kinds of numbers evolve at a more glacial pace – usually hundredths of a point per year rather than tenths.  All four other regions lost a little share of GDP, as this table shows.

Georgia GDP Table

A few other nuggets:

  • Twenty-one counties saw their GDP shrink between 2012 and 2015.

    Georgia County GDP Change Map

    GDP grew in the counties in blue and contracted in the ones in orange; the darker the color, the more extreme the change.

    Tiny Baker County in southwest Georgia led this race to the bottom; its GDP cratered 29.7 percent, dropping from $97.2 million in 2012 to $68.4 million in 2015.  Not far behind was neighboring Calhoun County, where the GDP fell 17.8 percent during the same period – from $113.2 million to $93.1 million.  (You can find an interactive map showing the percentage change in GDP for each county between 2012 and 2015 here: https://tabsoft.co/303CaY0).

  • At the other end of the spectrum, it’s worth noting that four small South Georgia counties led the state in percentage growth over that same period – Telfair County (71.4%), Lanier County (47.9%), Stewart County (47.9%), and Wheeler County (42.4%). While that growth is obviously impressive and encouraging for those counties, their growth combined contributed less $300 million in new GDP to the state’s economy.  By comparison, exurban Dawson County, north of Metro Atlanta, grew by more than double that amount.
  • In December 2016, I published a TIGC post comparing all 56 counties of interior South Georgia to Gwinnett County alone and making the point that Gwinnett County outperformed South Georgia in any metric you could find – economic, educational, public health, etc. The same is true with GDP.  Gwinnett County’s 2015 GDP was $43.5 billion to South Georgia’s $34.3 billion.  In fact, the same can be said of Cobb County, DeKalb County and, of course, Fulton County.  Fulton’s 2015 GDP of $157.4 billion is, in fact, larger than the combined GDP’s of my Middle, South and Coastal Georgia regions – 106 counties altogether.
  • The BEA report breaks the GDP data into three components – “private goods-producing industries,” “private services-providing industries,” and “government and government enterprises.” One mild surprise (at least to me) was how little the government sector contributed to Metro Atlanta’s GDP and how large a part it was of the other regions’ economies.  Despite the fact that the 12-county Metro Atlanta region is home to probably a hundred local governments, Georgia state government, and the regional offices of numerous federal agencies, the government sector made up only eight percent of Metro Atlanta’s $327.3 billion GDP in 2015.  In contrast, it makes up 24.3 percent of the much smaller GDP in both Middle Georgia and Coastal Georgia, no doubt because of the military bases strung across the belly of the state and along the coast, plus the ports at Savannah and Brunswick.  South Georgia’s government share of GDP in 2015 was 20.5 percent; North Georgia’s, 13.2 percent.

This last bullet should tell you why local, state and national politicians used to go a little crazy every time there was new round of military base closings under the old Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, and why Congress basically killed it several years ago (try to imagine Middle Georgia without Robins Air Force Base).  It also underscores an observation that came into focus early in my TIGC research: communal investments are critical to building a local economy.  I have yet to find a prosperous Georgia community that doesn’t have some sort of important public institution.

South Georgia vs. Gwinnett County

By Charles Hayslett

Here’s an easy way to understand the widening gap between Metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia.

Compare all 56 counties of interior South Georgia to Gwinnett County alone.

Gwinnett County’s 2013 population was estimated at 859,304 – just under three-fourths of the 1.16 million people living in our 56-county South Georgia region.

But despite that population disadvantage, Gwinnett County:

  • Generates more income and contributes more in taxes than all 56 counties of South Georgia combined. According to IRS data, Gwinnett County’s total income for 2013 was $21.2 billion versus $17.4 billion for South Georgia.  Similarly, Gwinnett County taxpayers paid $2.5 billion in federal taxes while South Georgia taxpayers contributed $1.7 billion.
  • Consumes substantially less in social services than South Georgia. In 2013, as one example, Gwinnett County consumed less than a third as much in Medicaid services than South Georgia.  The federal share of South Georgia’s Medicaid costs totaled $927.6 million; Gwinnett County, $266.2 million.  The picture for SNAP (food stamps) and other social benefits is similar.South Georgia vs Gwinnett County
  • Is home to significantly more college graduates than South Georgia. Based on data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), there were 175,290 college graduates in Gwinnett County over the period 2009-13 versus 110,576 for all of South Georgia.  This hasn’t always been the case.  As recently as 1990, Gwinnett County and South Georgia were basically tied in this category: 65,281 for Gwinnett and 63,073 for South Georgia.
  • Sends more students to University System of Georgia colleges than all of South Georgia. This is also a recent development.  A decade ago South Georgia still sent significantly more kids to college than Gwinnett County – 5,117 versus 3,762.  But by 2011 they were basically tied.  South Georgia sent 5,498 kids to college while Gwinnett County sent 5,493, according to University System of Georgia data.  Since then the gap has widened steadily, and in 2015 Gwinnett County sent 1,100 more freshmen to University System colleges than South Georgia.
  • Is substantially healthier than South Georgia. Using premature death rates as a proxy for health status, Gwinnett County is about twice as healthy as South Georgia.  The 2015 YPLL 75 rate for the 56-county South Georgia region was 9,823.3; for Gwinnett County, it was 5,163.2 (with YPLL 75 rates, the lower the number, the better).   In this category, South Georgia has actually gained a little ground over the past 20 years.  It’s improved about 5.4 percent over that period while Gwinnett County has been essentially flat.  But South Georgia’s numbers in this category are abysmal while Gwinnett County’s are pretty close to optimal, especially for a county as large and diverse as it is.  For 2015, Gwinnett County’s YPLL 75 rate was the fifth best in the state, and it has consistently been in the top tier of counties in this category.
  • Produces about half as many criminals as South Georgia.   In 2015, according to Georgia Department of Corrections data, South Georgia sent more than twice as many people to prison than Gwinnett County did: 2,403 for South Georgia versus 1,049 for Gwinnett.  The picture for new probationers is similar: 5,956 for South Georgia versus 2,630 for Gwinnett County.

In a future post, we’ll take a look at political and cultural trends in Gwinnett County and South Georgia.

Copyright (c) Trouble in God’s Country 2016