Hispanic and Latino communities in Metro Atlanta

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Atlanta, the largest urban center in the southeastern U.S., has undergone profound social, cultural and demographic change since the 1980s. Prior to that time, the region contained two main ethnic groups: European Americans and African Americans.[1] However, from 1980 to 1995, the Hispanic population of Georgia grew 130%. By 1996 there were 462,973 Hispanics in Georgia.[1] From 1990 to 2000, Georgia became the third largest state for migrating Hispanics and Latinos.[2]


The main increase in Latino immigration to Atlanta began in the 1990s, as a result of the construction boom that accompanied the 1996 Olympics. However, the increase in the Hispanic population began before Atlanta was named host of the games in 1990. The Hispanic population is the largest non-traditional minority group in the city. Hispanics grew from 30,000 in 1982, to over 110,000 in 1992[1]—260% in ten years. Between 1992 and 1996, the Hispanic population of the Atlanta metro area grew to over 231,619[3]—an increase of 110% in just six years. Of these, 9,571, or 4%, are children in school.[3] This growth has changed the cultural make-up of the city: three Mexican-owned radio stations that broadcast in Spanish, and, in 1997, there were three Spanish language newspapers,[1] increasing to eleven by 1999. Mexican workers play an important role in the service sector, as well as in construction and industry. Meat packers, especially chicken processing plants, must be located close to the farm to reduce losses of live animals in transportation. Packers, then, are tied to the production region, but they use up the local work force because of the arduous and dangerous working conditions, as well as low salaries.[4] As in the rest of the country, the Hispanic population in Atlanta continues to grow but at a smaller rate, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.[5] Furthermore, Dekalb County, in suburban Atlanta, showed between 2010 and 2014 the biggest decline in Hispanic population in 11 counties that have Hispanic populations of 10,000 or more. Numbers revealed by the US Census in 2015 showed that in Dekalb County Hispanic population was 64,279 in 2014, down 4% from 2010.[5]


Metro Atlanta

At 10.4% of the metro's population in 2010, versus only 6.5% in 2000, the metro's Hispanic population increased 103.6%, or 278,459 people, in ten years.[6] Major Hispanic groups include 314,351 Mexicans, 43,337 Puerto Ricans, and 24,439 Salvadorans.http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_10_SF1_QTP10&prodType=table All of those groups' populations increased by over 90% in the ten-year period. Of the metro's 279,000-person increase in the Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010, 98,000 came in Gwinnett County, 37,000 in Cobb, 25,000 in Fulton (all but 3,000 outside the city of Atlanta), 20,000 in Hall, and 15,000 in DeKalb County.[7] The Hispanic population is heavily concentrated in the northeastern and eastern sections of the Atlanta metropolitan Area.

City of Atlanta

The 2010 and 2000 Hispanic population of the city was:[8][9][10][11]

Ethnicity Pop. 2010  % of total 2010 Pop. 2000  % of total 2000 absolute
change 2000-2010
 % change 2000-2010
Hispanic or Latino of any race 21,815 5.2% 18,720 4.5% 3,095 16.5%

The city of Atlanta's Hispanic population increased by 16.5% from 2000 to 2010, and in 2010 the city was 5.2% Hispanic. Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group.

2003 statistics from Atlanta Archdiocese

A needs assessment for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2003 summarized the main characteristics of the Hispanic population at that time:[12]

  • The ratio of males:females in mass is 55:46
  • The estimated total population of Hispanics in north Georgia is 460,000
  • The average age of the population is 33 years
  • Women go to mass more often and are more likely to be married
  • Most people, 86% of the sample, are married or in a common law marriage
  • 15% have no children
  • Over 80% have no children in their home country (males of any age and all older migrants have more children in home country)
  • The population as a whole has an average education of 9.7 years-women have 10 years, and men, 9 (this differs widely by region and nation of origin)
  • Hispanics come from 20 countries: Mexico is the birth country for over 75% of the sample, Colombia for 7% and Guatemala for 4%
  • The average year of arrival in the U.S. is 1992, and in Georgia is 1995
  • At least 50% of the total Hispanic population is undocumented
  • About half send money home, especially those who report children left behind with relatives
  • Many still have strong ties to their country of origin, with 40% still owning a house there
  • The longer the U.S. residence, the less money sent home
  • The most common form of household is for 3 family members to occupy two bedrooms and rent out the third bedroom (or the living room) to 2 non-family members
  • Hispanics not as mobile as is commonly thought—on average, Hispanics have spent over two years in their current housing; males are a more mobile population than females.
  • Average rent is $665 per month
  • Most live in a house (49%), followed by apartments (36%) and trailers (12.5%)
  • Women report a 92% employment rate, working in meat packing (11%), domestic service (8%), and professional industries (7%) (13% were professionals at home)
  • Men work in carpet (7%), meat packing (10%), and construction (29%), including 8% who are skilled construction workers or crew chiefs
  • In their home country, the largest group worked in agriculture (31%), with 13% in construction and 11% professionals
  • Unemployment is less than 4%
  • Most (61%) do not speak any English, while 35% report that they are bilingual; 3.9% speak an indigenous language
  • The main language spoken in the home is Spanish, but 10% speak either English alone or both English and Spanish at home
  • Most report that they come to mass every week
  • 80% get to mass in car, 9% by paid ride
  • 43% prefer mass at noon; and 80% prefer mass on Sunday
  • Few (6.5%) have participated in another religion
  • Half would prefer a parochial school for their children
  • 10% need baptism services, over 25% have used these services
  • 25% report a need for Bible study or spiritual study
  • Three-quarters of the population would serve in a ministry in the parish; 73% have never served in a parish ministry
  • Most come to mass with between two and three other members of their household
  • Ten percent reported living in households with people who practice another religion

The same study reports that main needs of the Hispanic population include:

  • More report social needs (35%) than religious needs (29%)
  • Most people know what services are offered in their parishes
  • The greatest needs are for English classes (35%), legal advice (33%), helping getting driver’s licenses (28%), and medical care (17%)
  • Few need financial help or employment assistance
  • Services actually used include English language classes (20%), youth group, financial support, and newcomers groups


Atlanta's vibrant and growing Hispanic community is represented at Festival Peachtree Latino, held annually Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta. The festival, which celebrates Hispanic-American culture, is the largest multicultural event in the entire Southeast.[13] The festival features arts and crafts, family activities, sporting events, a parade, dance demonstrations, ethnic foods, and a live music stage featuring international performers from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.[14] In addition, over 250 exhibitors present favorite brands, souvenirs and interactive displays.[15] The festival, which began in 2000, continues to grow in attendance. It is free and open to the public.


With a growth rate of over 300% since 1999, doctors and hospitals struggle to provide services to Spanish speaking patients.[16] With multiple versions of the Spanish language, which may be understood by other Latinos or Hispanics in the same region, cultural differences, the lack of interpreters for Spanish, and monolingual English speaking medical staff, obtaining adequate healthcare is a problem for Hispanics and Latinos in Georgia. In addition to the language barrier, there is another problem that exists for Latinos and Hispanics in the healthcare industry. According to the Georgia Minority Health & Health Disparities Report, 41% of Georgians without health insurance are Hispanics, with an additional 24% representing multi-cultural communities.[16] Although the Hispanic and Latino communities make up 29% of the working class in Georgia, the majority of Hispanics and Latinos do not benefit from having either public or private health insurance.[17]


With an increase in population over the last decade, there has also been a steady increase in the number of diabetes cases in the Atlanta.[18] Although African Americans have the highest cases of diabetes with 31%,[19] the morbidity rate of Hispanics and Latinos has doubled over the past ten years to 1.8%.[19] This information warrants improved medical attention that should focus on the Latino and Hispanic communities. Additionally, diabetes among pregnant women in Georgia compared to the U.S has constantly increased to approximately 1.50% from 1995 to 2005.[20] Although diabetes is more common in Blacks than any other racial or ethnic group,[21] Latino individuals are more than 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic Whites, and those of Mexican origin are twice as likely to have diabetes as other Latinos.[22]

Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program

The Emory-Grady diabetes service developed the “Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program” (ELDEP) in 2006. This program is run by Britt Rotberg who is an Emory Faculty member and aims to provide culturally-competent lifestyle education to Latino patients and educate healthcare providers on how to take care of Latinos with diabetes. To date more than 1,300 patients and 800 healthcare providers have participated in our program. ELDEP addresses the Diabetes Self-management Education (DSME) of Latino patients 16 and older with T2D in a variety of models meeting the needs of the patients and the clinics. This program, which helps to control Type 2 diabetes in Hispanics, teaches the importance of insulin, a balanced diet, exercise, how to monitor blood glucose, and medication. In follow up classes called "Clubes de Diabetes" (diabetes club) healthcare officials are able to monitor patients’ progress. The classes that ELDEP offers for Hispanics and Latinos are held weekly at Grady Diabetes Clinic, Grady’s International Medical Clinic, and at the North DeKalb and North Fulton satellite neighborhood clinics of the Grady Health System as well as other clinics throughout the Metro- Atlanta area. The program is at no cost to the participants and Hispanic/Latino patients with diabetes are encouraged to attend. The Emory Diabetes Education Training Academy (EDETA) also offers programs for physicians, mid-level providers and healthcare staff who care for patients with diabetes. EDETA includes the Emory Diabetes Course which is a three day seminar that is open to professionals of the health care team including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, social workers and others with present or planned involvement in the management and education of individuals with diabetes. Multi-discipline health care teams interested in organizing or improving a diabetes program are especially encouraged to attend. Professionals preparing to take the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) examination will find the course facilitates their study http://www.medicine.emory.edu/diabetesprofessionals. Contact: Britt Rotberg who can be reached at 404-616-7417 for more information.

Mercy Clinic

In addition to Emory, Saint Joseph’s Mercy Clinic, located in Brookhaven's Northeast Plaza (in the Buford Highway international district) provides services for diabetics as well. Mercy Clinic provides patients the opportunity to see someone who not only speaks Spanish in addition to several other languages, but is also sensitive to each patient’s particular financial situation as well. Mercy also has a pharmacy on location that makes for convenience in filling prescriptions.


The number of Latinos has grown exponentially since the 1900s.[16] The growth of Latino migrants has been dramatic: the number of Hispanics grew more than seven times between 1982 and 1996, to over 232,000, resuliting in 234,010 Hispanic migrants by 1998.[23][24]

As of the 2010 census, there were 819,887 Hispanics living in Georgia (up from 462,000 in 1996), making it the 10th largest state for Hispanics in the United States. Of those 819,000, approximately 50% lived in four counties: Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett. Of those four counties, Gwinnett experienced the fastest growth rate of 126% from 2000 through 2009. Of the 819,000 Hispanics in Georgia, approximately 43% own his or her own home, but 49% do not have health insurance.[25] Many of these Hispanics are young. In fact, the population of Hispanic Millennials in Atlanta is forecast to increase by 24% between 2013 and 2018.[26]

Female immigrants

About 10% of female migrants are single. Women typically start working informally in childcare, and then move into domestic service or hotel work.[27] Few women migrate alone, with most women following their husband once he has settled. Over 70% of Mexican women migrate to join their spouse; 20% come with their parents and only 7% come alone. Younger couples reunite sooner than older couples. The average gap between husband’s and wife’s migration is three years. Women have an average of 2.5 children, although 10% have no children.

Men earn enough in the U.S. to live and send money home, but not enough to support a typical family of 5. In 2000, a man could earn $1100 per month, or up to $1300 with two jobs, and his living expenses were at least $500. He could live and work in the U.S. and send money home, where his wife and children worked and lived cheaply. In Atlanta, expenses for a family of 5 were at least $1400 per month, more than one man’s salary, but within the reach of a two-worker family.

See also

Further reading

  • Blevins, Chuck. 2000. Metro Counties at a Glance. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 5/25/2000: JB18.
  • Bustamante, Jorge, Clark W. Reynolds and Raúl A. Hinojosa Ojeda. 1992. US-Mexico Relations: Labor market interdependences. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • CARA (Center for Applied Research in Anthropology, Georgia State University). 1998. Metro Atlanta Immigrants.
  • Ibañez, Gladys. 2002. Cultural Attributes and Adaptive Strategies that Promote Future Success among Immigrant Latino and Mexican Adolescents. Ph.D. Dissertation. Georgia State *University. Department of Psychology.
  • Kanter, James. 1998. The Many Faces of Diversity—We are all Immigrants. Georgia Bulletin.
  • Miller, T. Danyael. 1999. ¿Dando Pecho?: The Effects of Migration on the Infant Feeding Practices of Mexicana Migrants in Atlanta, Georgia. Senior thesis in Anthropology. Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA.
  • Rees, Martha W. 2001c. How Many Mexicanas? Estimating Undercounted, Hidden Populations in Atlanta, Georgia. 2001. Michael Angrosino, ed. Ethnography: Data Collection Projects. Prospect Heights, Illinois:Waveland Press. Pp. 123–129.
  • Rees, Martha W. and Jennifer Nettles. 2000. Los Hogares Internacionales: Migrantes Mexicanas an Atlanta, Georgia. In, Migración Femenina hacia EUA. Pp. 73–100. Sarah Poggie and Ofelia *oo, eds. Mexico: Edamex.
  • Rees, Martha W. and T. Danyael Miller. (2000). Mexicana migrants in the Post-NAFTA Era: Households and Work in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Saindon, Jacqueline J. 1991 Piney Road: Work Education and The Remaking of the Southern Family. A Final Report To the Ford Foundation.
  • US Bureau of the Census. 2001. International Data Base. http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/idbagg.
  • US Bureau of the Census. 2001. The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2000. Issued March 2001.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dameron, Rebecca J. and Arthur D. Murphy. 1997. An International City Too Busy to Hate? Social and Cultural Change in Atlanta: 1970-1995. Urban Anthropology 26(1):43–70.
  2. Georgia State Fact Sheet. Provided by the National Council of La Raza, 2003. http://www. nclr.org
  3. 3.0 3.1 CARA (Center for Applied Research in Anthropology, Georgia State University). 1996. Georgia Hispanic Population, 1981–1995.
  4. Saindon, Jacqueline J. 1991 Piney Road: Work Education and The Remaking of the Southern Family. A Final Report To the Ford Foundation.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Hispanic population reaches record 55 million, but growth has cooled". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2016-02-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Jeffry Scott, "Hispanic population doubles across metro area", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 17, 2011
  7. U.S. Census 2000 and 2010 data
  8. DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000; Data Set: Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data; Geographic Area: Atlanta city, Georgia, US Census Bureau
  9. Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010" (Select Atlanta (city), Georgia), US Census Bureau
  10. City of Atlanta Quick Facts, US Census Bureau
  11. "Living Cities" study, Brookings Institution
  12. Rees, Miller, Saldana 2003
  13. http://mableton.11alive.com/news/events/79094-weekend-events-dralion-summer-shade-festival-and-german-bierfest-atlanta
  14. http://www.festivals.com/viewevent.aspx?eventid=Oy%2FaNomyyGE%3D
  15. http://www.atlantagatoday.com/pmcparland/category/atlanta-blog/travel-guide/atlanta-festivals/festival-peachtree-latino
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Hispanics by the Numbers in Georgia. Provided by the University of Georgia Business Outreach Services/ Small Business Development Center, 2003. http://www.sbduc.uga.edu/pdfs/hispanicfactsheet.pdf
  17. Latino Health, Georgia’s Future: Strategies for Improving the health if Latinos in the State. National Council of La Raza Institute for Hispanic Health, 2007 Advance Issue on the Georgia Latino/Hispanic Health Agenda and Leadership Project. http://www.nclr,org/content/publications
  18. 2003 Georgia Diabetes Report., Provided by the Georgia Diabetes Advisory Council
  19. 19.0 19.1 Georgia Minority Health & Health Disparities Report: Diversity http://web.msm.edu/ncpc/Publications/GA_minority_health_disparities_DIABETES.pdf
  20. Georgia Epidemiology Report. Volume 24 number 3, Provided by the Georgia Department of Human Resources
  21. Georgia Minority Health & Health Disparities Report The Melting Pot, Provided by the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine, 2004
  22. Diabetes Health Resources. Provided by the Center for Disease Control
  23. Rees, Martha W. 2001. How Many Are There? Ethnographic Estimates of Mexican Women in Atlanta, Georgia. Latino Workers in the Contemporary South. Proceedings of the Southern Anthropological Society. Arthur D. Murphy, Colleen Blanchard and Jennifer A. Hill, eds. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. Pp. 36–43.
  24. Rees, Martha W., T. Danyael Miller and Mariposa Arillo 1998. Atlanta Latinas. Presented at the Center for Latin American and Hispanic Studies, 1997-1998 Lecture Series: Gender, Culture and *Politics in Latin America. Women and NAFTA. 14 May 1998.
  25. "Hispanic Migration to the Metro Atlanta Area," http://www.law-articles.org/hispanic-immigration-to-the-metro-atlanta-area
  26. http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/239457/why-atlanta-is-the-hottest-hispanic-market.html
  27. Nettles, Jennifer. 1997. Desde muy lejos: un estudio de la vida de un mujer imigrante, mexicana. Senior Research Paper, Agnes Scott College.

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