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Census report reveals much about how we live

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Peach State Bank & Trust teller Steven Pettit helps customer Herb Harris with a deposit Monday inside the bank on Washington Street in Gainesville.

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A survey released today by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that 27 percent of Hall County residents older than 25 don’t have a high school education and one in three households headed by a single mother with children younger than 5 is living below the poverty level.

In addition, two Northeast Georgia counties are among the fastest-growing in the country.

The bureau’s American Community Survey of midsize counties with a population of 20,000 or more replaces the long form in the decennial census, which is conducted in years ending in zero. It is designed not just to reveal the number of people, but also give an indication of how we live.

For example, as of 2007, of the 172,729 estimated residents of Hall County, 76,477 were not born in Georgia. Of that group, 31,265 were foreign-born and 27,160 of them are not U.S. citizens. The latter number also includes foreign nationals who are in the U.S. legally.

The survey reports there are 43,528 people in Hall who are identified as Hispanic. They include 36,292 Mexicans, 783 Puerto Ricans, 137 Cubans and 6,316 identified as Other Hispanic or Latino.

In some demographics, Hall County falls far behind the percentage for the state.

For example, the survey revealed that 27 percent of adults older than 25 do not have a high school diploma. That number is split almost evenly between those who did not reach the ninth grade and those who have completed somewhere between ninth and 12th grade without graduating.

Hall County schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the percentage is in line with present graduation rates.

"I guess it’s not terribly different from what we’d expect," Schofield said. "Last year in Hall County, the graduation rate was about 75 percent.

"Is it good enough? Absolutely not. We ought to find ways to get 100 percent of our people plugged in and educated," he said.

The president and chief executive of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce agrees.

"Raising our graduation rate is one of the top priorities of our Vision 2030 plan," said Kit Dunlap. "Having educated people for our work force is the only way we can attract high-tech jobs."

Statewide, 6.4 percent of the adult population older than 25 had less than a ninth grade education and 11.4 percent had between ninth grade and 12th grade, without graduating.

In comparison, 89.4 percent of the adult population in Forsyth County has graduated from high school and 43.5 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The survey, which was conducted between January 2005 and December 2007, came before the impact of the current economic downturn; however, the report shows some indicators of financial conditions.

The percentage of all families living below the poverty line was 8.7 percent, a number that grows even higher among single women.

In all families with a female head of household and no husband present, 23.5 percent were living below the poverty rate. With children younger than 18, the number increases to 29.4 percent and with children younger than 5, the number jumps to 36.1 percent.

The survey also gives a picture of Hall County’s changing work force. Of the 80,223 workers in Hall, 19,808 work in sales and office occupations, while 19,498 work in management, professional and related occupations. There are 17,851 workers employed in transportation, production and material moving jobs.

One area county also has had an large increase in its work force.

The Census Bureau noted Jackson County had the greatest percentage jump in the number of civilian employed individuals 16 years and older working in service occupations. Between 2005 and 2007, the number increased 74 percent in Jackson County.

Jackson and Dawson counties also are among the fastest-growing in the U.S. in overall population.

Jackson is third in the nation and its population has increased by 17,665 between 2000 and 2007 — an increase of 42.5 percent — for a total of 59,254. Dawson County is the 11th fastest-growing county in the U.S., according to the report. Dawson added 5,485 residents between 2000 and 2007, a 34.3 percent increase. The census estimate places the county’s 2007 population at 21,484.

Doug Bachtel, a University of Georgia professor who studies growth and demographic trends, said the region is the beneficiary of the growth of Atlanta.

"Atlanta is a regional hub for so many things, such as transportation, service, manufacturing and government," Bachtel said. "Even in this bad economy, our economy is doing better than other states. Historically, we’ve had a more diversified economy with a lot of different job opportunities here."



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