Georgia Tech, bicycles
The gender gap between the earnings of women and men in metro Atlanta widens on the basis of their academic credentials, an ARC report shows. File/Credit: David Pendered

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.

Georgia Tech, bicycles
The gender gap between the earnings of women and men in metro Atlanta widens on the basis of their academic credentials, an ARC report shows. File/Credit: David Pendered

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.

gender pay gap, by education
The biggest earnings gap between men and women in metro Atlanta is in the category of those with graduate or professional degrees, according to findings by the ARC. Credit: ARC

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:

Atlanta Fed:

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.


job growth rates, commuting, upward mobility
Children from poorer households in metro Atlanta have not benefited from the region’s job growth to the degree noted in other metro areas. Credit:
Children from poorer households in metro Atlanta have not benefited from the region’s job growth to the degree noted in other metro areas. Credit:

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.”

Brookings Institute:

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.”

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...

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  1. That image has been off for a long time now. I consistently meet people around the country who used to live in the metro and none wants to move back. Its a poor and low quality place to live. It will be interesting to see who still lives here in 2035. Atlanta is clearly and far and away much older than I recall. Senior living is everywhere.

  2. I live in the Lakewood Heights neighborhood in south Atlanta.

    Anyone who says that America is a 1st word country isn’t looking at it.

  3. Gender equity, especially in today’s robust economy, is likely not as “real” as we are led to believe. Major political talking point. For example, in real estate or any other commission based industry, the commissions are the same regardless if you are a man or a woman. Same with hourly paid jobs and “tip” based jobs. Salary based jobs are negotiated by the applicant who received the offer. Could it possibly be the fact that women may not negotiate as good as men for pay? Could the fact that women tend to take more days off than men be a factor? How about the fact that the employer knows that he can pay a woman less because of the above also contributes. The market is the market and we are way past times when women are simply paid less for the same job just because they are women. That does not mean that women willingly accept less for the same job.

    I love the comment above by ATLBooster who “…consistently meet people around the country who used to live in the metro and none wants to move back.” Right!! I have only met one or two former Atlantians who will not move back and that is due to the traffic and crowded nature the city has become. While that ALTBooster may be accurate (doubtful) people sure are for a fact relocating to Atlanta in droves for the jobs, cheaper cost of living (for now), better weather and a great area (also for now). As they bring the same politics here that ruined the areas they are fleeing all of this is likely to also go away including the jobs.

    1. Hey most people’s dream isn’t to live in Atlanta or any major city for that matter. But Atlanta does have a few things on its side, the gravity of mega cities will pull talent from all the regional places. It’s like a vacum that sucks up and pulls people in. As a city this town is on no shinny hill. But because it got so large the benefits of being so large are still granted to it.

  4. You know it came to pass that another former Atlantan (notice it was not Atlien) brought up that Georgia doesn’t make sense for a lot of people because it’s surrounded by lower tax states and the shield of Florida. So for lower wage work GA will be attractive. Once people earn, theyll be gone. And given Atlantas bad and increasingly only for one type of person reputation, young people skipping it for Austin and Nash is likely a wise move.

  5. I have been in Atlanta since 1966 and have seen it grow from a “wanna be” big city into a major metropolitan area with international city aspirations. There are, without a doubt, a lot of positive things that have occurred over the last 50 or so years. However, the least positive change, IMHO, is the relentless migration of people from other regions of the country (Northeast, Upper Midwest and West) who have moved here and tried to remake or transform Atlanta into the very areas they moved away and escaped from. Instead of embracing the positive aspects of the Atlanta/Southern lifestyle and culture they have ridiculed it, rejected it and subsequently demanded that it be changed it to “the way it was where I came from” (i.e. NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, etc.). If Atlanta is no longer the attractive place that it once was, maybe a big part of the blame lies at the feet of the most recent influx of residents.

    So, when you think about it is it really such a bad thing that Millennials (the plague dujour) who represent the next potential wave if in-migration (who, for the most part, are psuedo-educated, self indulgent, self absorbed, socially stunted individuals) are not moving to the Atlanta area?

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