A number of metropolitan Atlanta counties have seen the number of minorities grow beyond 50 percent of the total populations in recent years, thus making them minority majority counties. Included on that list are Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Rockdale counties, and according to the Census Bureau, the makeup of Douglas County could soon reach such a status.
While Carroll County has seen growth in its non-white populations since 2000 — with those groups growing to make up 25 percent of the total county population in 2009 — the influx is hardly comparable to that seen in and immediately around Atlanta. In 2000, there were 17,881 minority residents in the county, which represented 20.5 percent of the total 87,268 residents. By July 2009, that number had grown to 28,688 of the slightly more than 114,000 total in the county. The numbers include both racial minorities and Hispanics, who are considered an ethnic group.
In terms of percentages, the Hispanic demographic has seen the most activity in the last 10 years, growing by more than 250 percent over that time from 2,243 to 6,061. The number of black residents in Carroll County has increased by approximately 6,000 over the same period, up to just over 20,000 in 2009.
The economy is most likely to thank for the influx of minorities into the county, said University of West Georgia economist Dr. David Boldt. In the early 2000s, the economy was flourishing and this translated into a lot of activity in the housing and construction markets. Day-laborer positions have historically attracted Hispanics, Boldt said, and that seems to have been the case locally.
“It’s because of the huge growth in housing and all the landscaping and that type of employment. It’s also for the huge need for workers in construction,” Boldt said. “Clearly that’s been a big attraction.”
Because the recent economic recession has all but halted construction projects, the number of minorities coming into the county has likely tapered off this year, Boldt said, though the sheer number of minorities in the county isn’t likely to recede again as a result.
He said that once communities of minority residents are established in an area, they oftentimes draw friends and family of those residents to the area, whether they be from across the country or from abroad.
“You see it with certain communities once you get the lead group coming into a place from a particular region or a particular country. Oftentimes you see family members and acquaintances back home come and join these families because they know so many people. I think that has happened here,” Boldt said. “Once you attract some people in, it attracts others.”
Not only are certain minority groups drawn to areas because of the labor market, he said, but once they establish themselves, they then serve to influence that local economy. Boldt pointed to the increase of Hispanic-themed restaurants and grocery stores as an example of such a phenomena on the local level.
Daniel Jackson, head of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Boldt, saying that influx of minorities can be almost completely tied back to the county job market, growing with the availability of construction and manufacturing work.
“It’s clearly because we had so much robust construction going on, and our manufacturing also saw a net growth from 2002 to 2007. So, it was a combination of labor force needs in industrial and construction work,” Jackson said. “Literally, it was a market-driven demand because the economy was so strong.”