By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College
Cobb County’s economic growth may not surprise many people. But how many know about the quality of life in one of Georgia’s fastest-growing population centers, poised to top one million in a few decades? Residents will be pleased to learn that the county’s life expectancy statistics match the economic numbers. Can the county keep the good times rolling?
Earlier this year, Doug Sams, the Editor-in-Chief of the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported “The county has a 2.4% unemployment rate, compared to 3% for the state overall.” He adds the success of company headquarters, the Atlanta Braves and nearby multiuse complex, the Silver Comet Trail, Downtown Marietta, Wellstar Health System, Cobb Galleria Centre, and more. He adds “Cobb County has 766,000 residents, which is an 11.5% growth since 2010. The county is expected to crest 1 million residents by 2050.”
But what about the quality of life? According to Steven Woolf, Director Emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, there’s a lot of concern for the United States about its life expectancy. In his report “Falling Behind: The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy Between the United States and Other Countries, 1933-2021,” he reveals we’ve been falling behind other countries since the end of World War II. Where we once ranked 8th in the world in this category in 1933, we’re 46th now in life expectancy.
Is there some good news in Woolf’s report? According to MSN.com, “The underperformance in life expectancy growth has not been uniform across the US….Woolf found that the disadvantage has been concentrated in the Midwest and South.”
A look at Ian Bremmer’s map of life expectancy shows that Cobb County, like much of the area around Atlanta, is faring far better than the rest of the state. Right now, that would put the county on comparable numbers with a country like Ireland, Belgium or Germany. Closer to my neck of the woods in more rural West Georgia, we might find life expectancy numbers closer to Iran, Brazil or Mexico.
Stacker confirms the good news, at least for Cobb County. The average life expectancy is 80.3 years, three more than Georgia’s mean numbers). The county is fifth in health outcomes, sixth in length of life, and also sixth in quality of life, according to Stacker.
So if the numbers are so good, what does Cobb County have to worry about?
First, these great economic numbers are going to serve as a magnet, attracting more people wanting to be residents. That’s going to put a huge demographic strain on existing resources in infrastructure, health care, residences, education, and the environment, especially if the county makes that million resident number sooner than expected. Will Cobb County have the capacity?
Second, prices are already starting to spike in housing, and food, amenities, schools, parking, everything that feeds into the quality-of-life equation. It will only accelerate, and it isn’t about supply chain, the current administration, or anything else. It’s Economics 101.
Cobb County has some choices. It can rest on its laurels, withdraw into tiny enclaves, or confront head-on the good news and the coming concerns heading this way. It’s time for Cobb County to build and develop the foundation for the future if it wants to keep the good life.