Atlanta Has Fourth Fastest Growth of Suburban Poverty in the Nation


While the suburbs are typically thought of as a destination for the well-to-do looking to flee problems of the inner city, new research has found that in metro Atlanta and other areas around the country poverty is one of the fastest growing problems. Nationally, the poor population in the suburbs has grown by about 60 percent over the last decade.

The Atlanta metro area has been one of the leaders in that trend. According to the Brookings Institute, Atlanta ranked fourth in the nation in growth of suburban poverty between 2000 and 2010, outpacing cities like Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio.


The poverty growth in Atlanta’s suburbs has been significantly greater than it has been in the city – a stark change from poverty rates before the 21st century. By 2010, 87 percent of metro Atlanta’s poor lived in suburbs. In the 1970s, the number of poor in the city and suburbs was about equal. Since then, poverty in suburban areas has increased significantly and skyrocketed after 2000.

Between 2000 and 2010, poverty increased 5.9 percent in the suburbs compared to 1.7 percent in the city. Atlanta was fourth among the top 10 metro areas in the U.S. where suburban poverty grew the most in those years. The full top 10 list is below.

Cape Coral, Florida
Greensboro, N.C.
Colorado Springs
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Dayton, Ohio
Youngstown, Ohio
Salt Lake City

“In Atlanta, the poor population in the city held stead between 2000 and 2010 while the poor population in the suburbs grew by 122 percent — more than doubling over the course of the decade,” Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution told Saporta Report.

In the nation’s 95 biggest metro areas, the poor population in the suburbs grew by 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the poor population in cities grew by 23 percent, Kneebone added.

The mounting increase of suburban poor has been due in large part to relocation efforts by government officials of people who were previously living in Atlanta’s now defunct housing projects. Brookings found that 79 percent of Atlantans who get housing vouchers live in the suburbs. When the city replaced massive housing projects with mixed-income developments it relocated many poor residents to the suburbs in the process. Today, 85 percent of metro Atlanta’s affordable housing exists outside of the city.


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