School systems, lower tax bases and the proximity to larger towns for commuting purposes are all cited as reasons why people move to small towns.
"The middle and upper-middle class people are fleeing to the suburbs," said Douglas C. Bachtel, a professor at the University of Georgia's College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Athens-Clarke County and Atlanta have grown 0.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Bachtel said the higher-income residents are essential to cities because they tend to support civic organizations, such as parent-teacher groups, Rotary clubs and soup kitchens, that supplement city governments' efforts to maintain strong communities.
"They form the foot soldiers of these volunteer organizations," said Bachtel, who has been studying census trends for 25 years. "When they leave, the government is left to get the people back on track."
Despite the population loss, Macon will continue to draw investors, said Pat Topping, senior vice president with Macon Economic Development Commission.
Topping said Macon's central location and interstate access are prominent factors for companies looking to build. As long as people are willing to commute to work, companies would still rather build in Macon and pull their work force from the surrounding areas, he said.
And those areas are growing. Warner Robins, Gray and Forsyth have each grown more than 14 percent during the 2000-2004 period.