Reports suggest shine is coming off metro Atlanta’s image as land of equal opportunity
By David Pendered
Jaw-dropping is one word for a description of Atlanta by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The Fed’s report is one of a trio that paints a less than flattering image of metro Atlanta on issues of gender pay equity and economic mobility for children, and as a magnet for millennials.
The Atlanta Fed released its annual report March 25 and it begins with this single sentence:
- “One of the most impoverished places in the Southeast lies less than a mile-and-a-half from Atlanta’s historic Grant Park, a prosperous neighborhood of 120-year-old Victorians, tidy bungalows, and the city’s zoo.”
After that capsule, the other two reports serve to illuminate their various aspects of city’s, and region’s, current posture:
- The Atlanta Regional Commission weighed in on gender equity on March 22 – results show the median earnings of women are 25 percent lower than those of men. The report notes: “No breaking news here … women make less than men.”
- The Brookings Institute observed Jan. 31 the declining rate of millennials moving to the region. The report notes that 2007 was the last year metro Atlanta ranked in the Top 5 for net migration of millennials. That was the year the Great Recession started and when Barack Obama represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate.
None of the reports taken into consideration the pending departure of the headquarters of SunTrust bank to North Carolina after its announced merger with BB&T, of Winston-Salem, N.C.
If nothing else, a portion of Atlanta’s bragging rights will be silenced with the departure of the major financial institution. Not that Atlanta will be forgotten. However, if regulators and shareholders approve the merger, the new hometown headquarters of Charlotte can expect to bask in the benefits of hosting what will be the nation’s sixth largest financial institution – along with hosting Bank of America and the No. 2 headquarters for Wells Fargo.
The timing of the three reports is coincidental. They are so recent none seem to have undergone academic review, or what they could portend cumulatively for the region.
The Atlanta Fed’s annual report comes on the heels of the March 6 Beige Book, the periodic compendium of anecdotal information collected from contacts outside the Fed system.
The March 6 report from the Atlanta Fed continued a years-long pattern of businesses reporting difficulty in finding workers. The twist is the shortage has reached the point that employers report offering higher wages in addition to the non-cash incentives they’ve relied on previously – such as increased vacation time, flexible work arrangements and reduced hours for full-time, exempt employees.
Here are a few snapshots from each report for metro Atlanta:
Children born into poorer families in metro Atlanta struggle to climb into more affluent classes, according to an October 2018 presentation at the Atlanta Fed by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty. While this finding has made its way into popular discussion, Chetty emphasized the challenge facing Atlanta with this observation:
- Of the nation’s 381 major metro areas, the eight in the Southeast consistently rank near the bottom. Atlanta was ranked at the bottom of this list of eight – at 360 out of 381 metro areas.
Education doesn’t narrow the gap in the earnings of men and women in metro Atlanta. Women with post-graduate or professional degrees earn 36 percent less than men with similar academic credentials. The greatest gender equity gap appears in the sector of arts, entertainment and recreation, where women’s earnings are 44.9 percent less than those of men. The closest women come in earning power is in public administration, where women earn 86.9 percent of a man’s earnings.
- “When controlling for comparable education levels, the gap is smallest for women with a high school diploma and largest for women with a graduate or professional degree. This is the opposite of the national trend, in which the largest levels of disparity are seen at lower levels of education.”
Millennials are not moving at the rate they were before the Great Recession. When they do relocate, metro Atlanta is no longer a magnet for this generation – aged 25 years to 34 years. Atlanta seems to have fallen off the chart in 2007, when metro Atlanta ranked third among the nation’s top 53 metro areas for in-migration of millennials. Houston is only one of those top five cities to still make the top 5.
- “Today’s young adults, now encompassing those in the prime millennial ages, show a penchant for “educated places” – including Denver and Seattle – as well as more affordable areas like Minneapolis and Kansas City with pre-recession hot spots like Riverside, Phoenix, and Atlanta showing reduced appeal. While they are still leaving the high cost of living on the coasts, young adults are spreading out more broadly across the country.”