Atlanta middle class, like much of country, hurting


Atlanta middle class, like much of country, hurting

What Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and most presidential candidates say is true: the middle class is getting hammered, particularly in Atlanta.

Recent reports by the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Atlanta Regional Commission point up less-than-stellar economic growth, rising inequality and stuck-in-neutral — except for the wealthy — wages across urban America.

The Brookings think tank Thursday released economic performance rankings for the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and the pictures aren’t pretty. The report tracks growth, prosperity and how whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others are performing in the post-recession economy.

The 10-county metro Atlanta region ranked 32d for overall economic growth between 2009 and 2014. When it comes to prosperity — improving productivity to raise living standards — Atlanta came in 62d. For inclusion — how all residents perform — Atlanta was No. 63.

Overall, the region witnessed a healthy 8.9 percent uptick in jobs during that period. Yet median wages fell 4.8 percent, Brookings reports.

“Successful economic development strategies not only grow an economy but raise living standards for all of its residents,” said Richard Shearer, a senior research analyst at Brookings. And “measuring the gap between economic outcomes for whites and people of color can indicate whether access to opportunity is broadly shared in a metropolitan area.”

The ARC recently reported that despite relatively good earnings in 2014, overall wage growth in metro Atlanta has stagnated since 2010. And middle-wage jobs took it on the chin.

Growth in middle-wage jobs across the region lags peer cities “significantly,” the commission says.

“Growth in jobs and wages in middle-wage occupations has been either sluggish or, in many cases, non-existent in metro Atlanta since 2010,” said ARC researcher Mike Carnathan. “Atlanta and Chicago are the only ones to have experienced essentially no growth in middle-wage occupations.”

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