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Atlanta drops out of top income inequality spot, but not for Black people

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Atlanta drops out of top income inequality spot, but not for Black people

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Protestors fill N. McDonough St. as they march through downtown Decatur during a peaceful demonstration sponsored by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights on June 7. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Atlanta, GA — Atlanta has been frequently cited as the “most unequal city in America” in terms of the gap between rich and poor. However, according to recent research by Ignited Word, that income inequality gap, also known as the Gini coefficient, has been dropping in Atlanta since 2019.

That’s great, right? Not necessarily.

According to Ignited Word’s “No End in Sight” project, Atlanta is the fourth fastest-gentrifying city in the United States. This suggests that income inequality is dropping not because the income of the poorest people is rising, but because they are being displaced.

Additionally, inequality in Atlanta is race and location-based. The gap between rich and poor inside the city limits is much higher than in the metro area at large, and the gap between the annual income of Black and white households in Atlanta at $74,522 is second only to San Francisco at $118,982.

Black households in Atlanta, on average, are significantly poorer than white households, and that gap shows no signs of closing. While the median income of Black households is rising slightly, it’s not enough to make up the difference any time soon. 

Based on projections using U.S. census data, the income gap between Black and White median income could remain virtually unchanged for the next 200 years, whereas it will close for other racial groups,” said Ignited Word’s founder Malaika Cheney-Coker.

Lead researcher Abby Cohen says that the data shows that closing the gap is possible but that current strategies are not working. 

Cohen says that while systemic changes take time, the apparent stagnation of Black families relative to other groups challenges the very idea of progress. Cohen says that finding solutions that will work requires a “collective reimagining” of what is possible and how it can be achieved.

“People are able to cope with struggle and hardship when they believe that the future will be better for their children and grandchildren. But, while the research is no crystal ball, it could serve as an alarm bell that that better future won’t come for Blacks in Atlanta unless profound changes happen,” Cohen said.

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