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Researching Urban Atlanta

A guide to locating current information about the Atlanta urban area.

This guide covers current information about Atlanta. For a more complete guide for doing research on the city and metro area, please see Atlanta Research Guide.

What is Atlanta?


Atlanta is a city and a metropolitan area. The Atlanta Metropolitan Area consists of 28 counties (see below for a list), economically integrated with the core city of Atlanta. The City of Atlanta consists of parts of DeKalb and Fulton counties. Emory is in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, but not in the city of Atlanta. Kasim Reed is the current mayor of the City of Atlanta.

TIP: When using the statistics about Atlanta, be aware of whether you're drawing on numbers for the city or the larger metro area.

At the time of the 2010 Census, 5,268,860 people lived in the Atlanta metro area, making it the 9th largest in the country. The City of Atlanta, however, is only the 40th largest the U.S., with an estimated population of around 420,003. The City of Atlanta occupies 131 sq.miles and has a relatively low population density of 671.5 people/sq.mile. In comparison, New York City and Los Angeles have population densities of 8,158.7 and 8092.3 people/sq.mile respectively (2000 Census).  



Map of the Metro Atlanta


Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area (2000 Census)
Barrow County, Bartow County, Butts County, Carroll County, Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County, Coweta County, Dawson County, DeKalb County, Douglas County, Fayette County, Forsyth County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Haralson County, Heard County, Henry County, Jasper County, Lamar County, Meriwether County, Newton County, Paulding County, Pickens County, Pike County, Rockdale County, Spalding County, Walton County.


The City of Atlanta originated in 1837 as a railroad terminus on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and was called simply Terminus. As the city’s population grew, it was decided the area needed a new name. First, in 1843, it was renamed Marthasville after Gov. Wilson Lumpkin’s daughter Martha. Two years later it was renamed Atlanta, the origin either being Martha’s middle name “Atalanta,” or the feminized version of Atlantic, as in the railroad company. You can read more about the history of the city in "Atlanta" from the New Georgia Encyclopedia. And check out Atlanta History Center for more information.  Finally, another good starting place for Atlanta history is: 

Atlanta: An Illustrated History
LOCATION: F294 .A857 A55 2003 (Copies in Woodruff Reference and in stacks)

Concise overview of Atlanta history, by Andy Ambrose of the Atlanta History Center.

Atlanta's Theme Song

Check out the 2005 rebranding of Atlanta from the "City too Busy to Hate" to "Atlanta: Every Day is An Opening Day".  The new campaign was accompanied by, "The ATL", a theme song that received mixed reviews. (Listen to it here.)

Subject Librarian

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Jennifer Elder
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Librarian for Education, Psychology, QTM, & Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

Emory University

Robert W. Woodruff Library


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