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Study: Black Atlantans prefer suburbs, whites moving to city 'core'

STREAKING DOWNTOWN--Feb. 14, 2014 Atlanta: Streaks of tail lights and headlights from Atlanta commuters on the downtown connector shows the free flowing traffic in this time exposure Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Early commuters found Friday's predawn drive icy and dicey and in one instance deadly but the reports of icing slowed after daybreak, as bright sunshine helped melt the black ice scattered across metro Atlanta. "We think we're ahead of this now," said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karlene Barron. "This is pretty much behind us." Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said Saturday should be mostly sunny, with morning lows around 32 and afternoon highs in the mid-40s. The sunny skies will continue through Sunday, when lows will again be in the low 30s and afternoon highs will reach the mid-50s. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
STREAKING DOWNTOWN--Feb. 14, 2014 Atlanta: Streaks of tail lights and headlights from Atlanta commuters on the downtown connector shows the free flowing traffic in this time exposure Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Early commuters found Friday's predawn drive icy and dicey and in one instance deadly but the reports of icing slowed after daybreak, as bright sunshine helped melt the black ice scattered across metro Atlanta. "We think we're ahead of this now," said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karlene Barron. "This is pretty much behind us." Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said Saturday should be mostly sunny, with morning lows around 32 and afternoon highs in the mid-40s. The sunny skies will continue through Sunday, when lows will again be in the low 30s and afternoon highs will reach the mid-50s. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

This story has been updated with Stone's quotes.

According to a new migration study of the Atlanta area, people from out of state prefer to move to the city's "core," while core residents head for the suburbs, and people living in the suburbs head for other parts of Georgia.

What's more, "Among migrants within the Atlanta region, whites were far more likely to prefer the urban core, while blacks were more likely to prefer the suburbs," according to the study's author, Lyman Stone, who also analyzed statewide migration trends.

His Atlanta data is drawn from the American Community Survey County-to-County Migration Flows Data, 2006-2010, while his statewide data comes from the American Community Survey County-to-County Migration Flows Data, 2008-2012. You can download the source data here.

One note: Stone's piece has its pecularities, particularly with how it classifies different parts of metro Atlanta. He atypically includes Cobb County as part of the city's "core," along with DeKalb and Fulton, because of its access to public transit, according to the service maps he referenced. (To that point, Stone said that even counting Cobb as a suburb wouldn't "radically" change the results.) Gwinnett is also broken out as its own area. The "suburbs" cover everything else.

During the time period Stone studied, he wrote that more than 4,200 African-Americans per year moved from Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties to southern suburban areas, such as Henry County. More specifically, "200 black [people] a year, on net, migrated out of DeKalb County to other Atlanta counties, while almost 2,000 white [people] moved in." And in Gwinnett County, "about 2,300 black [people] moved in per year, while about 1,200 white [people] moved out." 

It's this additional distinction that Stone, who is in the middle of an ongoing series on national migration, highlights: "Migration within Greater Atlanta has a measurable and significant racial bias. ... About 10 [percent] of the migration in Atlanta involves some kind of racially-biased relocation."

Annually, this net totals about 18,000 people.

"ACS estimates are an annual average taken over five years. They are a sample, and so have a margin of error," Stone said. "For county-level estimates, especially rural counties, that error can be large. Generally, the larger the sample of counties, the more confident I can be that I'm providing correct results.
"So in one-county samples like the ['core'] Atlanta counties. I'll readily admit there may be some degree of sample bias. However, there is no more accurate data, to my knowledge."
Stone wrote that his analysis about migration and how that migration splits among people of different races is meant as a converstation starter -- not the final word. 

"Migration within Atlanta is impacted by numerous factors, from transportation access to cost of living to education. But race is also a major factor, and one concerning which any Southern city must, for historical reasons, take extraordinary care," Stone wrote. "Is Atlanta doing a good job measuring up to that task? That’s up to residents to say: hopefully the data I’ve presented here can be useful for informing that discussion."