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How Valid is this Talk of Educated Youth Abandoning ATL?

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Metro Atlanta, once a bastion for college-educated twenty-somethings, has had a fall from grace, according to a study released by a fancy new think tank, City Observatory. We find ourselves sitting third-to-last of the 51 largest metro areas in the country in percentage growth of young, college-educated individuals between 2000 and 2012 (with "metro" being the operative word). It might be little consolation that we're better than a city that went bankrupt last year, but at least we beat Cleveland, if only just barely. For those living intown, these numbers don't pass the smell test — and certainly not the eye test. Look around: In the last decade, intown neighborhoods have swelled with youngish folks of all stripes who don't appear to be uneducated knuckle-draggers. An op-ed in the AJC acts a bit surprised, too, but offers an explanation, stating, "Atlanta's increase in young, college-educated professionals has been concentrated within the region's inner urban core. Outside that inner core, there was no growth of this cohort whatsoever." That is, young college grads aren't moving to Snellville, Johns Creek or Jonesboro.

Despite low gains across the metro, the population of smarty-pants young'uns increased 38.7 percent in the city center; while still not great compared to other cities (a few surpassed the 100 percent mark, and many more are more than double Atlanta's number), it helps to lessen the blow of the overall study.

One of the major contributing factors noted is the lack of comprehensive, reliable public transit outside of the city center. A consultant quoted in the article seemed aghast that there is likely a correlation between the inadequate range of public transit and the downturn in new Gen-Y Atlantans, finding, "the complaint about transit in Atlanta was somewhat surprising." Seriously? Anyone who lives in Atlanta knows that MARTA is inadequate for the size of the city, and furthermore, many Millennials are big fans of public transit.

The piece is worth a read as it takes the situation in stride, with a bit of humor to boot. Because laughing is a better way to cope with the situation than crying.

— Michael Kahn

· The Young Abandon Atlanta [AJC]
· Young and Restless: How is your city doing? [City Observatory]
· Where Young College Graduates are Choosing to Live [NYTimes]