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Census: Atlanta’s on track to soon pass Philadelphia’s population

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Metro Atlanta’s growth rate is surpassing that of most other top 10 cities, recent numbers show

A photo of Atlanta’s Downtown Connector at night.
The Connector, in a rare state of rapid mobility.
Curbed Atlanta

If metro Atlanta’s growth trajectory stays the course, the economic powerhouse of the Southeast should leapfrog greater Philadelphia as the nation’s eighth-largest metropolis by the time today’s high school sophomores head off to college.

Those are the findings of recent U.S. Census data, as reported by the AJC, that forecast Atlanta climbing a slot to No. 8 in terms of metro populations by 2022, overtaking Philly.

It’s the latest indication that a thriving Atlanta job market, combined with what’s still considered relatively affordable housing, will spell a future of remarkable growth for the Big Peach.

Metro Atlanta’s 2017 population of almost 5.9 million (The City of Brotherly Love counts 6.1 million now) reflects nearly 90,000 residents who moved to the area last year alone—a growth rate of 1.5 percent, per the Census data.

That growth percentage for the 29-county Atlanta MSA bests eight of the other top 10 American metros, including cities (granted, larger ones) such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, as the AJC points out.

A deeper look at the numbers shows Atlanta’s groundswell of young people (ages 20 to 29) is outpacing competitors, while the region’s becoming increasingly more diverse, especially with Hispanic residents, whose ranks increased by 7.8 percent in 2017, versus 0.6 percent for the white population.

The latest U.S. Census estimates continue impressive (or daunting?) numbers pulled from a year prior, which pegged Atlanta as having the third highest population gain of any metro in the country, behind Dallas and Houston respectively.

Overall, Atlanta ranked as the ninth largest metropolitan area in the country, just 200,000 residents behind Philadelphia and 275,000 behind Miami, per the earlier Census numbers.

US Census Bureau

Last year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors compiled a long-range outlook for leading cities that predicted metro Atlanta would crest 9 million residents by 2046.

That would make Atlanta the nation’s sixth largest metro, trailing only New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and slow-growing Chicago, the national group estimated.

Atlantans spoke loud and clear in 2016 in decisively passing two transportation funding referenda—to include $2.5 billion for MARTA expansion, eventually—and legislators followed suit by devoting $100 million to statewide transit efforts this year.

But for the time being, maybe there’s a correlation between all of this growth and one depressing traffic metric after the next, the latest pointing to our too-common, two-hour daily commutes.