Kempner: Spending divide starts at Atlanta’s Perimeter

Not to play up labels or anything, but it turns out there is a difference between metro Atlantans who live Inside the Perimeter vs Outside The Perimeter.

It comes down to how they spend their money. Starting with drinking establishments.

ITPers spend on average about 35 percent more of their money at bars than OTPers do.

That’s what I’m told by the helpful folks at Cardlytics, an Atlanta-based tech company that handles reward programs for financial institutions.

The company has access to a trove of data about how millions of people in the U.S. and UK spend when they swipe a credit or debit card, make a bank transfer or use bill pay. (Cardlytics doesn’t see the names and identities of the individuals, though. And it doesn’t get cash sales.)

So I asked Cardlytics to crunch the data to settle this whole ITP/OTP thing and bridge the I-285 divide.

Who do you think spends more on travel, innies or outies?

How about on groceries? Apparel? Car repairs? Online shopping? Full-service restaurants?

“There are a lot of similarities between all Atlantans, no matter where you live,” said Dawn Brun, Cardlytics’ director of communications.

She had proof. On average, she said, both metro Atlanta intowners and suburbanites spend more on Waffle House than any other quick restaurant. (I would have guessed Chick-fil-A instead.)

Such common ground makes me feel good about our ability to get along with each other.

Brun, who in her 14 years in Georgia has never lived outside the city of Atlanta, said she notices the OTP/ITP issue comes up a lot when she meets people for the first time. “I think people assume we are very different.”

How we deviate

Here’s how we do deviate on spending, based on Cardlytics’ data:

On average, intowners spend 25 percent more than metro Atlanta suburbanites on travel. They shell out 34 percent more on online shopping and an extra 20 percent on apparel.

Intowners also spend 9 percent more on groceries, which seems odd to me. What about all those families feeding kids in the burbs?

ITP isn’t always about more, more, more. Intowners spent an average of 27 percent less on gasoline than suburbanites did (OK, that was an easy one), 11 percent less on auto supplies and repairs, and 16 percent less on quick-serve restaurants. I assume that last one is because suburban families with kids are always on the go.

But there isn’t much difference between the two groups when it comes to what they plunk down at full-service restaurants, Cardlytics found.

The Atlanta Regional Commission, a regional planning agency, has loads of data to share about how we differ in other ways.

The median age of intowners is a year and a half younger than that for OTPers. Millennials make up a bigger percentage of the intown population. Suburban homes are more likely to include kids. A larger proportion of intowners have graduate or professional degrees. Asians and Hispanics account for more of the population OTP population than ITP. African-Americans make up a bigger chunk of the ITP population than OTP. White non-Hispanics are no longer the majority in either place.

Of course, neither ITP nor OTP are monolithic places. And they keep changing. How to define ITP and OTP folks is getting more complex, which probably means new labels are in order.

For example, some people manage to have homes both intown and farther out. Let’s call them Ambi-TPers.

Lots of people have shifted their status, moving from inside to outside or outside to inside. They’re Trans-TPers.

Then there are folks in communities like Sandy Spring that are so close to the Perimeter it’s hard to figure out which side they really fit with. What do you call them? Split TPers? Straddlers?

‘Exciting things’

Britton Thomas grew up in Buford and moved to Midtown after college. He’s 27. “I guess I always had it in my mind that I was a city guy. That was where exciting things are happening.”

A marketing guy for a hotel company by day, Thomas started a little T-shirt business called Side Hustle to help people display their Atlanta-ishness with local motifs.

A shirt that lists past local baseball players sells well in the suburbs, Thomas told me. So does one with an image of Georgia along with the word “Y’all.” Shirts with hip-hop themes and one called the Ponce DeLorean do better intown

Intown’s bigger proportion of millennials and fewer parents with young kids leads to more freedom, disposable income and a hankering for experiences, Thomas told me. Which is why, he said, it’s not surprising that city people would spend more on travel and be able to hang out in bars more often.

Chef-driven restaurants, bars and trendy retailers have tended to look for locations in the city, said Gregg Katz of The Shopping Center Group, which helps find space for store owners and retail tenants for landlords.

But increasingly walkable suburban places like the Avalon development in Alpharetta show “there can be a crossover,” Katz said.

“While ITP and OTP exist, there are great examples of how they are starting to blend together.”

By the way, he grew up in Sandy Springs (Split TP) and recently moved to Buckhead (Trans-TP).

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