Atlanta ranks as nation’s fourth neediest, ties for first in homelessness: WalletHub

By David Pendered

The city of Atlanta ranks as the fourth most-needy city in the nation and is tied for first in the category of homelessness, according to a report released Wednesday by WalletHub, a credit services company.

Pittsburgh poverty

The city of Atlanta ranks as the fourth most-needy city in the nation, according to a new report from WalletHub, a credit services company. This home is in the Pittsburgh neighborhood, just west of Turner Field. Credit: David Pendered

WalletHub analysts compared the nation’s 150 most populated cities across 21 key metrics. The purpose was to determine where persons are the most economically disadvantaged. The metrics include child poverty rates, food insecurity rates, and uninsured rates, according to the report.

Here are the rankings, with 1 being the neediest and 75 being average:

  • 1st – Homelessness rate (tied with Boston, Fresno, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.);
  • 12th – Food insecurity rate;
  • 13th – Crime rate;
  • 20th – Child poverty rate;
  • 41st – Adult poverty rate;
  • 45th – Inadequate plumbing rate;
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    50th – Unemployment rate;

  • 71st – Uninsured rate.

The findings are based only on the city of Atlanta, WalletHub spokesperson Diana Popa said in an email. All the rankings represent the actual city, not the metropolitan statistical area.

To put Atlanta’s ranking in perspective, consider that the three cities that are more needy are Detroit; Brownsville, Texas; and Memphis, Tenn.

Two cities in North Carolina that are regional competitors to Atlanta scored much better than Atlanta but still made the list. Charlotte is ranked 94th out of 150. Raleigh ranked 112th, according to the report.

The three cities with the least need are Irvine and Huntington Beach, Calif.; with Overland Park, Kansas ranked 150th.

wallethub homelessness rate

The city of Atlanta is tied for first place in homelessness, according to WalletHub. Credit: WalletHub

WalletHub analysts used data collected from 15 entities including the Census; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation; RealtyTrac; Gallup-Healthways; and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The report provided commentary on a variety of subjects, but not on individual cities.

In response to the question, “What are the main challenges facing low-income families today?” WalletHub’s expert Gloria Bonilla-Santiago said:

“The main challenges facing low income families today are lack of affordable housing, health and child care, food security hardships, lack of work, lack of education, lack of shelter for their families. Low income families are a welfare check away from homelessness. They live struggling for basics such as food, shelter, health care and good schools for their kids.”

Bonilla-Santiago is a Board of Governors distinguished professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University, in Camden, N.J.

WalletHub said the goal of the report is to, “inspire goodwill toward the less fortunate.”

The WalletHub findings continue a drumbeat of bad news about the situation facing those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

Perhaps the report that has resonated the loudest is the one that determined that poor youngsters in Atlanta have almost no hope of moving up the ladder.

The five-county urban core ranked 50th out of 50th cities in terms of children from the bottom fifth income bracket to the top fifth income bracket. Among the nation’s top 100 cities, only Memphis had a lower percentage of mobility than Atlanta, according to The Equality of Opportunity Project. The project was created by academicians at Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

6 replies
  1. Publicas says:

    This report is not worth the paper it is written on (or website space it is occupying).  It makes the same mistake so many of these studies do:  it uses “rates” for a geographic area that is simply an artifact of history.  If the City of Atlanta had been allowed to expand at the same rate as other cities in the country (like Charlotte for example), suburbs such as Sandy Springs and Dunwoody would be within the city limits.  All of these so called “rates” – poverty, crime, homelessness, etc – would look a whole lot better.  If you ever come across a study that uses this type of methodology to compare “cities”, then don’t waste your time.  They are quite literally garbage.Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    Publicas  “If the City of Atlanta had been allowed to expand at the same rate as other cities in the country (like Charlotte for example), suburbs such as Sandy Springs and Dunwoody would be within the city limits.”
    What a lame excuse for Atlanta City’s present position!
    The majority of residents in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs would have moved had these areas been annexed by Atlanta City. And don’t forget the residents of South Fulton voted this year to incorporate rather than be annexed into Atlanta City.
    If wishes were horses then beggars might ride.Report

    Reply
  3. Publicas says:

    Burroughston Broch Publicas

    You are missing the point.  The City of Atlanta is only 8% of the metro region.  Most cities are in the 30-40% range.  Crime, poverty and homelessness is always concentrated in the downtown, urban centers of these metropolitan regions.  So when you start calculating rates of crime, poverty – really anything – you end up with an apples and oranges situation. Cities with the larger footprints relative to their metro regions get to include their wealthy, inner ring suburbs in their denominator.  Cities like Atlanta do not. 

    I could easily carve out a city of 250,000 people within the current boundaries of the City of Atlanta and it would be one of the safest cities in the country.  It wouldn’t make the residents of that geography any safer than they are today. This is not an “excuse”, it is an appeal for cogent and useful analysis.Report

    Reply
  4. BPJ says:

    Tom Teepen wrote about 20 years ago that “Atlanta doesn’t have unusual crime or poverty problems; it has an unusual boundary problem”. Exactly right. The city of Houston takes up most of its metro area, while the city of Atlanta takes up the smallest percentage of its metro among the 30 largest. So “city limit” based comparisons are statistical garbage.Report

    Reply
  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    The area of the City of Houston is 667 square miles, that is 6.6% of the 10,062 square mile metropolitan area. So your claim that the City of Houston takes up most of its metro area is false.
    By your reasoning Jacksonville should be a pearl of great price since the City area is almost 24% of the metropolitan area.
    And the City of Atlanta exports its crime problems all over the metropolitan area.Report

    Reply

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