Atlanta's Unmatched Gentrification

Over at CL, Thomas Wheatley recently linked to an interesting article at Governing.com that cites Brookings Institution data that shows Atlanta’s white population having grown at an unmatched rate since 2000 (from 31% in 2000 to 35% in 2006). According to the article, that’s the fastest white population increase in the nation…only D.C. is competitive.

However, while the city is becoming more white, the collective metro area is becoming less so.

“For if the city itself is growing whiter, the Atlanta region is growing less white. The Atlanta Regional Commission reports that in 2000, the white, non-Hispanic population of the 20-county Atlanta metro region formed 60 percent of the total population; by 2006, that had shrunk to 54 percent, not so much because whites were leaving — although four counties did see absolute declines in white numbers — but because of the arrival in the suburbs of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Africans and Caribbeans. Of the 10 counties in the nation with the largest declines in white percentage of the population from 2000 to 2006, six are in the suburbs of Atlanta.”

So, what’s the reason? Well, to make a long story short, the article’s author thinks its traffic. And that “Commuting distance has become inversely proportional to class” in Atlanta. He predicts a similar trend the nation over.

Quite coincidently, Atlantic Monthly recently investigated another aspect of this very trend. A July ’08 article entitled “American Murder Mystery” investigates the crime explosion in city suburbs and points the finger at one of the most celebrated antipoverty initiatives in decades: the destruction of the projects and the dispensing of Section 8 rent-subsidy vouchers to its tenants.

It’s an interesting and slightly troubling read, as entire inner city communities are torn apart and sent packing into the unknown ‘burbs. On top of that, these poorer populations are now spread out in the lower-density areas, where walking anywhere is nearly out of the question. So now $4 gas or a bus/train ticket figures into an already difficult financial equation. Coupled that with a loss of community, and the future of the outer suburbs looks very real and very bleak.

For better or worse, cities are being redefined…and Atlanta seems to be on the cutting edge.