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The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Georgia’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics

A Look at the State’s Emerging Communities of Color Before the Republican Primary

See also: The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Ohio’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics by Vanessa Cárdenas and Angela Maria Kelley; The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Virginia’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics by Vanessa Cárdenas and Angela Maria Kelley; The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Massachusetts’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics by Vanessa Cárdenas and Angela Maria Kelley

Georgia is undergoing a population boom—the state’s population grew more than 18 percent from 2000 to 2010. Significant demographic shifts have accompanied this growth. In advance of Tuesday’s Republican primary in Georgia, here are some facts on how emerging communities of color are affecting Georgia’s economy and political electorate.

1. Georgia is at a demographic tipping point. It is 1 of 13 states where people of color make up more than 40 percent of the population. The state has 44.1 percent nonwhite residents, and the nonwhite share of the state has increased by 6.7 percent in the past decade. From 2000 to 2009 Georgia’s Hispanic population accounted for 23.2 percent of the state’s population growth.

2. People of color make up a substantial portion of Georgia’s population. African Americans make up 31.5 percent of the population, while 8.8 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, and 3.8 percent is Asian American.

3. Georgia has a large racial generational gap. In 2010, 73.2 percent of Georgia residents over the age of 60 were non-Hispanic whites, 21.9 percent were African American, and a mere 2.2 percent were Hispanic. In the same year only 46.9 percent of Georgia children were non-Hispanic whites, while 34.4 percent were African American and 12.7 percent Hispanic. Also that year the median age of Hispanics in Georgia was only 25.2, while the median age of non-Hispanic whites was 40.4. These demographic gaps are consistent with nationwide trends: In 2010, 80 percent of American seniors were white, compared to only 54 percent of American youth.

4. This demographic change is reshaping the electorate. The share of Georgia’s electorate that is African American is more than double the national average. In 2008 blacks made up 30 percent of the state’s eligible voters, while nationally blacks were only 12.2 percent of all eligible voters. And the Hispanic share of Georgia’s vote is growing. From 2000 to 2010 the state’s Hispanic population increased by 66 percent, and the number of eligible Hispanic voters in the state increased by 181 percent. In 2010, 194,000 Hispanics were eligible to vote in Georgia. Also, as a group Latino eligible voters are younger than voters of other races and ethnicities in Georgia. Thirty-two percent of eligible Latino voters are between the ages of 18 and 29, while only 27 percent of eligible black voters and 20 percent of eligible white voters are within that age range.

5. In the 2008 presidential election, African Americans voted heavily for then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and nearly caused an upset in a Senate seat. Although Sen. Obama lost the state to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by more than 5 percent, African American voters in Georgia heavily supported Sen. Obama at the polls. Exit polls suggested that 98 percent of African American voters cast their ballots for Sen. Obama, while only 2 percent voted for Sen. McCain. The election energized African American voters in the state, whose turnout rate increased by 7.5 points between 2004 and 2008. High turnout and an enthusiastic Democratic electorate created an unexpectedly close race for Republican incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who faced a runoff election in December 2008.

6. Georgia copied Arizona’s deeply unpopular anti-immigrant bill by passing its own law, H.B. 87, in 2011. Among other things, H.B. 87 makes it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants and empowers law enforcement to ask for “papers please” from anyone they suspect to be in the country without status. While polling on H.B. 87 is unavailable, 74 percent of Latino voters nationwide oppose the bill that inspired it, Arizona’s S.B. 1070.

7. The state is currently feeling the effects of this anti-immigrant measure. Early estimates argue that the state could lose between $300 million and $1 billion in the 2011 growing season alone.

8. Individuals in communities of color face significant economic hurdles. The median incomes of African Americans and Hispanics in Georgia were just 61.5 percent and 63.9 percent respectively of the median for non-Hispanic whites. And almost half of all Hispanics in Georgia and more than one-fifth of African Americans in the state lack health insurance, compared to only 14 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

9. Unemployment has also hit these communities harder than non-Hispanic whites. In 2010, 12 percent of African Americans, 8.2 percent of Hispanics, and 11.8 percent of mixed-race individuals in the labor force over the age of 16 in Georgia were unemployed, while only 6.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites were unemployed.

10. Nevertheless, communities of color contribute significantly to the state’s economy. In 2010 unauthorized immigrants paid $456.3 million in state and local taxes, and in 2009 the purchasing power of Georgia’s Latinos totaled $17 billion—an increase of more than 1,000 percent since 1990. Also the 32,500 Latino-owned businesses in Georgia brought in more than $6 billion and employed almost 36,000 people in 2007. Additionally, the number of Asian American-owned businesses in Georgia increased by 71.8 percent between 2002 and 2007, and Georgia is now the second-fastest growing state for Asian American-owned businesses.