Rebecca Burns at Atlanta Magazine writes this week about very concerning data (from Brookings, image above) that shows the City of Atlanta to have the widest income gap in the US, in a piece titled Atlanta: Highest rate of income inequality in the U.S. The city’s wealthiest earn almost 20 times as much as the poorest.
Here’s a quote:
According to a report issued Thursday by the Brookings Institution, Atlanta has the greatest difference between the household income of the top 5 percent of residents—$280,000—and the lowest 20 percent—$14,850.
[Meanwhile, outside the city limits, metro Atlanta has the lowest rate of income mobility in the US and one of the highest rates of suburban-poverty growth.]
As Burns also points out, this data quantifies something that is easily guessed as one walks through any part of the city where people on both ends of the economic scale come together. It’s quite stark in my Downtown neighborhood with the homeless shelters for single men all located here (the only ones in the entire metro) alongside middle to upper-class workers, residents, students and visitors — alongside poorer visitors coming to government offices.
What is driving this disparity in the City of Atlanta? One of the factors, as pointed out this week by an Atlantic Cities piece, is the higher-than-average poverty rate here.
We keep waiting for a set of Atlanta leaders who will address the problems of poverty in a straightforward and successful way. I wonder how long it will take before a Mayor of Atlanta builds a platform around these issues with the bravery that it requires — particularly with the economic divide existing so heavily on a racial divide.
My hope is that, as a society, we can learn to approach economic inequity and homelessness with the same zeal and innovation that we devote to urban technology (smart cities, technology hubs). But first we’ll need leadership to buy into it and helps to get the whole city on board with the effort. So we wait.