There was no true middle class in Georgia as we might imagine one during Reconstruction or even the New South period that followed for a variety of reasons.
Before the Civil War, King Cotton had created a dominant planter class that showed little interest in developing the institutions that would foster a middle class as seen in Northern states. Public education and the pervasiveness of libraries and museums provided the children of working class Northern children opportunities to gain a fundamental education and aspire to work or higher education that would provide upward mobility.
In contrast, Georgia children learned the lessons of the farm, the workshop, or (by the late 1800s) the mills, with the exception of those receiving private lessons or those sent to schools in the North. Furthermore, wealth in the South did not correlate to class, as it did in the North. While perhaps 90% of Georgians during antebellum were either slaves or yeoman farmers (very few living comfortably above subsistence levels), the few wealthy merchants, artisans or professionals were not always welcome into the planter's circles unless they were family members or connected through a family member. Even farmers who struggled financially often had greater privileges than a rich lawyer as long as they owned a handful of slaves or more.
Although land rich, a critical mass of Georgia's planters were money poor, with very little liquidity. If they needed a lot of money quickly (and often they did), they would have to sell something of value, most commonly a slave, which is one reason slave families could not stay intact. For too many farmers, their greatest concentration of wealth was neither in land nor in cotton, but in slaves. With emancipation of slaves, that wealth disappeared instantly. So, if a planter had a net worth of $30,000 ($40,000 in slaves - $10,000 mortgage), he was suddenly faced with a net worth of -$10,000 after the war and no one to work his land.
To further complicate things, confederate money was now worthless, much of Georgia’s gold reserves had been spent fighting the war, and all the institutions, tax revenue, and businesses that had been supported by rich planters collapsed with the collapse of the rich planter. What’s worse is the cotton market was no longer a monopoly for Southerners, given foreign nations’ switch to cheaper Egyptian cotton. And in addition to the poverty of whites, over 40% of the state’s population were now emancipated African Americans, who added to the unemployment woes.
Adding insult to injury, until well into the 20th century, freight rates for shipping raw materials to Southern factories was higher than for shipping raw goods from the South up north. Moreover, shipping finished products north was more expensive than shipping finished products South. This discrimination made it terribly difficult for new Southern factory owners to gain a foothold in the South or to entice anyone in their right mind to come from the North to build a factory.
The vast majority of both white and black Georgians found work in sharecropping or tenant farming, which for many seemed little better than slavery. By the late 1800s, Georgia’s industrialization amounted to low-paying mill work, which kept many Georgia families tied to the small mill town homes provided them by their employers.
There were certainly Georgians who were neither dirt poor nor lived on 1000s of acres before 1900, but it is fair to say that no substantial middle class culture existed in Georgia until well into the 20th century. Public and private schools did begin to spread, but with few getting into “high” school, the economic benefits of education would be hard to measure until the 1900s.