The Data Bowl: How does metro Atlanta stack up to metro Boston?

As the Atlanta Falcons gear up to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the number crunchers at the Atlanta Regional Commission thought it’d be fun to take a look at how the two regions stack up on a range of metrics, from demographics to economics. Call it the Data Super Bowl.

As you may know, ARC is known for being the data gurus for the Atlanta region. So, they created the “Data Super Bowl” – Metro Atlanta vs. Metro Boston.

After each category, they’ll award a touchdown or field goal. May be the best region win!


The Atlanta region’s population, like the Falcons offense, has been soaring. Consider that in 1990, metro Boston had about a million more residents than metro Atlanta (4.1 million vs. 3.1 million). Metro Atlanta now has a population of about 5.7 million, compared to 4.8 million for the Boston region – a lead that continues to grow.

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones as a rookie, entering the stadium to take on the Dolphins in 2011. PHOTO BY CURTIS COMPTON (Curtis Compton/


SCORE:  7-0



The Boston region’s economy, driven by a thriving biotechnology sector, is wicked strong – like Tom Brady’s arm. Boston’s gross domestic product is about $396 billion, the 9th biggest in the nation. Metro Atlanta is right behind, with a GDP clocking in at about $339 billion – the nation’s 10th largest. And now, metro Atlanta’s economy is growing faster than Boston’s. Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis


SCORE: 7-3


Drivers in both regions have to deal with plenty of traffic congestion. The mean time travel time to work is about the same in each metro area: 31 minutes. To be sure, the Georgia Department of Transportation has a number of projects in the works designed to improve traffic in metro Atlanta, including a vast network of managed toll lanes. But for now, we’ll call this one even.


 SCORE:  7-3



The Boston region, home to Harvard and MIT, boasts one of the best educated populations in the country. Even the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, is considered perhaps the smartest and craftiest in league history.

About 46 percent of Boston area residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 37 percent in metro Atlanta. Atlanta, of course, isn’t too shabby in this category: It is home to world-class institutions of its own, from Georgia Tech and Emory to Georgia State and the Atlanta University Center. But we gotta give Beantown this one.


  SCORE: 7-10


FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones catches a touchdown pass in front of Green Bay Packers' LaDarius Gunter during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game, in Atlanta. Atlanta led the NFL in points (540) by a wide margin, thanks to a career year from QB Matt Ryan (2), who along with WR Julio Jones (11) are All-Pros. The Falcons (13-5) take on the New England Patriots (16-2) in Super Bowl LI in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/(David Goldman), File) (David Goldman)


Atlanta has a well-earned reputation as an affordable place to live, especially when compared to other large metro areas. Consider: The median sale price of existing single-family homes in metro Atlanta is about $192,000, compared to $436,000 in Boston.


 SCORE  14-10


New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. (James Lang, USA TODAY Sports)


Income inequality is growing in both of these regions. According to the Census Bureau’s assessment, metro Boston and metro Atlanta have about the same level of income inequality. But the Atlanta region has a higher poverty rate (13.9 percent vs. 10.2 percent).


  SCORE 14-13



Metro Atlanta’s population is becoming increasingly diverse. Less than half of the region’s population is white, compared to 72 percent in metro Boston. By 2040, the region’s population is expected to be roughly equal parts white, black and Hispanic/other.


  SCORE 21-13



Metro Atlanta is full of innovative start-ups and visionary thinkers who have helped fuel a dynamic, growing economy. But the Boston region is home to one of the largest collections of big brains on the planet. Consider: Metro Boston residents filed more than three times the number of patents in 2015 than did people living in metro Atlanta. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to call this one.


 SCORE:  21-20



Boston suffers through long, chilly winters punctuated by frequent snow storms. The average high temperature in January is just 36 degrees. Atlanta’s winters are blessedly short, with temperatures in the 60s or even 70s not terribly uncommon. But Atlanta roasts in the summer, when the heat and humidity can sap the spirit of even the most die-hard Falcons fan.


Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (News | WFXT)



Post-game wrap-up by ARC:

Whew, that was close! This match-up of world-class regions was destined to be settled by a hair. Metro Boston and metro Atlanta share much in common: top-notch universities, thriving culture scenes, dynamic and growing economies and, of course, a passion for football. Now, bring on the Super Bowl!



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