Jul 7, 2022 - News

Atlanta residential segregation declining, but still high

Atlanta residential segregation by race
Maps showing where Black and white people lived around metro Atlanta in 1970 and 2020. Credit: Center of State and Local Finance at Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Residential segregation by race has eased across the 10-county metro Atlanta region, according to research conducted by Georgia State University.

Driving the news: Atlanta and its surrounding counties have become increasingly desegregated over the last five decades, as the share of Black people living outside the city has increased, according to the report released earlier this year and conducted by GSU Professor David Sjoquist and senior research associate Lakshmi Pandey.

  • In 1970, Black people lived predominantly in neighborhoods straddling I-20 in Atlanta. Over the next 20 years and through the 1990s, Black people began moving to southern Fulton, southeast DeKalb and northern Clayton counties, the researchers say.

What they're saying: Sjoquist told Axios the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination in the sale, renting or financing of residences, gave Black people the opportunity to move out of Atlanta.

  • "There was a great deal of decentralization," he said. "They were concentrated in those census tracts, and they started moving away from those into less densely populated areas."

Flashback: As Black people began moving into new neighborhoods, white residents moved out "in very large numbers," the report says.

  • This white flight resulted in neighborhoods in areas of southwest Atlanta going from 90% white in 1970 to 90% Black by 1980, Sjoquist said.
  • Obstacles like exclusionary residential zoning and persistent inequities in the housing market acted as roadblocks to Black people wanting to move to the suburbs.

However, by the start of the 21st century, Black households began popping up in north metro counties like Cobb and Gwinnett. Fast forward to 2020, and "substantial numbers" of Black people were living throughout the region, the report says.

Yes, but: While we are living in more integrated communities, metro Atlanta is still largely segregated by race, particularly in Fulton and DeKalb counties, the report notes.

  • Neighborhoods would be less segregated if white flight had not occurred, according to the report.

Of note: In the last 10 to 20 years, some white people have moved into Atlanta neighborhoods that were predominantly Black.

  • "There's not a lot of that going on, but there’s some and it's an indication that the future looks like we're going to have a much more integrated community," Sjoquist told Axios.
  • The growth of Hispanic and Asian residents in metro Atlanta could bolster the number of racial and ethnic households, he said.

Go deeper:

Analysis reveals Atlanta’s redlining history

Study: 20% of Black mortgage applicants in Ga. rejected

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