Low-performing and scandalous public schools in our older cities and suburbs and struggling single-parent families put poor kids on the slowest and narrowest economic escalators. Unfortunately, when acquisition and retention of knowledge by poorer kids are low and single-parent families are numerous, income immobility worsens.
If we don’t improve the prospects of poor children in metro Atlanta to climb past their parents on the income ladder, we should expect to remain low on many socioeconomic rankings, thus jeopardizing growth and prosperity.
Better access to quality public education for our poorer kids in cities (and suburbs) will improve income mobility. Improving the skills, relationships, opportunities and determination of their parents to escape poverty will help, too.
Spatially concentrate more of our growth near the poor. Build more mixed-use development and mixed-income communities. Invest in a real metropolitan transit system. That’ll increase the probability that opportunities for the prosperous stop bypassing our poor.
Income immobility, like our other great challenges of traffic congestion and air pollution, is a metropolitan problem requiring metro solutions. Certainly, Atlantans question regional action and we distrust our public leaders to improve society through it. Yet greater cross-community cooperation and resource sharing are necessary now to improve where more of the poor stand economically and where our metro area stands in competition for growth and prosperity.
We must reduce income immobility. If not, many of metro Atlanta’s poor will waste their imagination on the American Dream.