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In the eleven years I’ve been a resident of our great state, I’ve held the perception that Georgia is full of people like me—nonnatives. All you need to do is go to the Falcons-Saints game every year at the Georgia Dome, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a New Orleans fan. I have to conclude that they didn’t all make the drive from Louisiana—that most of them probably live right here. This argument, that Georgia is full of people from somewhere else, is trotted out all the time when we try to explain the tepid support for our major sports teams. People may move here, but they don’t move their allegiances.
The numbers, however, don’t really back up that perception. According to the 2010 census, 59 percent of all Americans live in the state of their birth. And in Georgia? Fifty-five percent who live here were also born here. A nominal difference. Certainly nowhere near as significant as Florida (only 35 percent native), Colorado (43 percent), or Nevada (24 percent).
Okay, but that’s the whole state. What about metro Atlanta, with its huge populations of Latinos and Asians? Well, it turns out that even in the thirty-three counties surrounding Atlanta, there’s roughly a fifty-fifty chance that the guy in line behind you at the grocery store was born in Georgia. Maybe we’re not quite the state of transients we think we are.
These stats help put this month’s feature package into perspective. When we first considered asking famous Georgians to recall their childhoods here, we worried that many of the most recognizable faces were born elsewhere. And in some cases, that was true. (Tyler Perry? Louisiana. John Lewis? Alabama. Ted Turner? Ohio. John Smoltz? Michigan. Shirley Franklin? Pennsylvania.) But then, as our list grew, it became clear that even if we had a year to work on this, there was no way we could track down all the big names who grew up on a farm in middle Georgia, or in the foothills of the Appalachians, or in the suburbs around Atlanta. (Julia Roberts, come back!) Thankfully, most of them still call Georgia home. And they’ve been kind enough to make room for the rest of us. Even Saints fans.