Atlanta Is America's Fourth-Fastest Gentrifying City, Study Finds

Atlanta is only behind Washington D.C., Portland and Seattle in the ranking of cities gentrifying the fastest.

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| July 19 2019,

6:10 pm

The wide-ranging study was produced largely as a rebuttal to critics of gentrification, using data from the 2000 census and the American Community Survey 2010-2014 to claim that gentrification was actually a good thing for cities like Atlanta. 


"Overall, we find that many original residents, including the most disadvantaged, are able to remain in gentrifying neighborhoods and share in any neighborhood improvements," the study states.

"While there is some evidence that gentrification increases out-migration, movers are not made observably worse off, and high baseline mobility means that almost all of neighborhood demographic change is explained by changes to in-migration, not direct displacement."

Despite the study's overall love for gentrification, just last month Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms debuted a new housing plan that was in direct response to concerns from Atlanta residents that things were changing too fast. This month residents of Quarry Yards complained publicly about a new development that they said was explicitly being marketed toward white people.  

"It’s obvious when I first saw it. I’m looking at a bunch of young, white professional yuppies. You know, this is the 'new Atlanta.' We already know this is what you want. But really, up in our face like that?" resident Sherise Brown told Alive 11 News last week.

"All these major (construction) developments, and I don’t see us in them. There’s nothing there for people who look like me – you know, that’s not making 40 and 50 and $60,000 a year."

Local news outlets say the average rent in Atlanta is nearing $1,400 a month for a one-bedroom, yet 20% of the city's residents live in households making less than $25,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The reality is that no city has gotten this right. And in true Atlanta fashion, I truly believe that we will be the first to get it right," Bottom said to Alive 11 News

“You want to make sure that if it’s someone making minimum wage, that they can afford to live in the city. And the same way that someone who may be making $40,000 a year can afford to live in the city," the mayor added.

The 50-page report found that Washington, Portland and Seattle were the cities in the U.S. with the most gentrification, followed closely by Denver, Charleston, Austin and Boston. 

One of the study's authors, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Davin Reed, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that they "do not want to downplay" the effects of gentrifications.

But most of the conclusions found in the report heartily praise gentrification, criticize policies like rent control and largely write off those who are priced out or are forced to move away.

"Overall, we find that gentrification creates some important benefits for original resident adults and children and few observable harms. It reduces the average original resident adult’s exposure to neighborhood poverty by 3 percentage points...Gentrification increases rents for more-educated renters but not for less-educated renters, suggesting the former may be more willing or able to pay for neighborhood changes associated with gentrification," the study states.

"We also find some evidence that gentrification increases the probability that children of less-educated homeowners attend and complete college, with these effects driven by those endogenously staying in the origin neighborhood."

Despite decades of anecdotal reports and data showing that Black people and disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected negatively by gentrification, the study claims the consequences of gentrification are "unclear and much debated."

"We find slightly larger out-migration effects for the most disadvantaged residents, though a caveat is that they represent a small share of our total sample and are also not made observably worse off ... While we find that movers are not made observably worse off, they may still incur unobserved costs of moving, such as loss of proximity to friends and family, networks, or other neighborhood-specific human capital," the study states. 

"Our results suggest that the important inequality effects [other studies] find exist alongside absolute benefits for original residents."

The authors added that policymakers should use the study to "weigh the benefits of gentrification that accrue to original residents, including less-advantaged residents, against any harms."


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