Most Atlantans probably know a few people who've moved here recently and who, at some point, graduated from college. An article published last week by Slate, titled "Atlanta Might Be Getting Dumber," makes educated Atlanta newcomers sound like an endangered species. The author points to a much-hyped 2014 report by City Observatory that raised a red flag for Atlanta's demographic trends. Of 51 metros that City Observatory studied (1 million residents or more), Atlanta was the only one where a smaller percentage of its 25-to-34-year-olds hold a college degree compared to the year 2000. "The city's concentration of brain power," writes Slate, "might be thinning out ever so slightly." These findings, derived from Census Bureau data, might confound intowners who've seen the city swell with younger residents and the amenities that cater to them (top-flight apartments, new green spaces, pricey and packed restaurants) in the last decade. And this could be another instance of a national publication muddling the difference between the city and its ungainly mess of a region. But observations like these by Slate could be a cause for concern: "These figures suggest that the education level among Atlanta's twenty- and thirty-somethings is, at best, stagnating, even compared with other cities at the bottom 10 of City Observatory's ranking." And later: "In blunter terms, Atlanta rode a wave of hype and is kind of over." Ouch.
Waxing on similar Census findings, the AJC's Jay Bookman reminisced last year about a time, 10 years ago, when the Metro Atlanta Chamber proudly called the city "the hot place to be if you're young and restless." Bookman wrote: "We were attracting lots of well-educated young people — 'the most coveted demographic in the nation,' according to the Chamber — and doing so at a higher rate than almost anybody."
This led to a bona fide explosion in college degrees in the 1990s that could be skewing today's numbers. Or maybe metro Atlanta, as a whole, is losing its edge?
Bookman noted that only Detroit (which lost 10 percent of its young college-educated population between 2000 and 2012) and Cleveland, because it's Cleveland, fared worse, in terms of metro areas. Almost all of metro Atlanta's increase in young professionals, one economist told the AJC, has been concentrated inside Atlanta's urban core. Outside the core, the percentage of young professionals has all but flat-lined.
Delving into this same issue last year, Creative Loafing helped to calm the panicked masses with a little perspective. They tapped Hans Utz, the city's deputy chief officer, who said a drop-off was to be expected after college-educated masses had flocked to metro Atlanta in the 1990s. Utz told CL that some cities with impressive recent growth (such as Baltimore or Buffalo, relatively speaking) may have started from an "absolutely decimated" place compared to Atlanta.
· Atlanta Might Be Getting Dumber [Slate]
· Why aren't as many college graduates coming to metro Atlanta anymore? [Creative Loafing]
· The young abandon Atlanta [AJC]