After 2007, Atlanta’s economy went from boom to bust and back to boom. But did everyone benefit equally? A Brookings Institution study ranks the nation’s metros and finds Atlanta in the middle of the pack. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Atlanta pay, inequality languish despite economic rebound, study says

Metro Atlanta incomes have faltered since 2007 despite strong job growth, according to a report this week from the Brookings Institution.

At the same time, racial inequality remained stubbornly high even as the economy rebounded from the Great Recession.

Compared with other regions during that time, Atlanta overall was in the middle of the pack — neither leader nor laggard.

The Brookings 2007-17 time frame began at the top of an expansion, just before the economy collapsed. It also spanned the recession and sluggish recovery before the economy started churning out jobs.

Of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., Atlanta was 33rd in “economic growth,” which the think tank calculated by measuring jobs, business growth and entrepeneurship.

Atlanta now has about 25 percent more jobs than in late 2009, when its economy bottomed out, after losing jobs by the fistful in 2008 and 2009.

Adjusted for inflation, Atlanta’s median income fell 3.9 percent during the decade. Seventy-four of the metros had stronger results, led by Austin, where median incomes climbed 15.9 percent.

In the period measured, Atlanta ranked 57th for inclusion by race.

Brookings compared median incomes, unemployment and poverty rates across racial lines. The wider the gap among groups, the worse the ranking.

The gap hasn’t narrowed in Atlanta, according to Brookings.

“The relative poverty rate was about 6.1 percentage points lower among Atlanta’s white population than its people of color in 2007, and about 6 percentage points lower in 2017,” the authors wrote.

In 2017, median earnings for whites in Atlanta was $15,420 higher than for people of color. That gap was 5.1 percent greater than a decade earlier.

In the decade measured by Brookings, the top metros tended to be smaller. For example, the best performance on racial inclusion came in Des Moines, Iowa.

Among large metros, the best-performing regions differed by category.

— Austin

— San Antonio

— San Jose

— Dallas

— Denver

— Memphis

— Cincinnati

— Denver

— San Antonio

— Los Angeles

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