Video: Atlanta’s income inequality in less than 2 miles and 5 minutes

Driving from Spring Street to Joseph Lowery Blvd. takes you through a microcosm of the gaps between the city’s rich and poor.


I wish I could say that last week’s Brookings Institution report stating that Atlanta has the highest income disparity of any big U.S. city was a surprise. But it wasn’t. As I read through the details of the analysis—which compares the ratio of the city’s top earners to those in the lowest fifth of household incomes—I couldn’t shake a particular mental image: a drive that I have made dozens of times in recent months while reporting a story for next month’s issue of the magazine.

That route, from downtown to Vine City and English Avenue, includes a straight shot from Spring Street to Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard. The drive follows a single road that, in typical Atlanta fashion, has multiple names, all bestowed in honor of civic leaders of the past. The stretch through Downtown is dubbed Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard for the late mayor. On the West Side, the road’s called Joseph E. Boone, in recognition of the civil rights leader known as the “picketing preacher.”

If you hit all the lights just right, this 1.7 mile drive takes four minutes. You start at an intersection clustered with high-end high-rise buildings, including the W-Atlanta Downtown, notable for its rooftop heliport, and where there’s a three-bedroom condo on the market for $1.7 million. You make your way past parking for downtown attractions and the Georgia Dome, cruise past Vine City and end up at English Avenue. In these neighborhoods, as WABE’s Jim Burress has reported, the value of many homes has plummeted to just $10,000.

But don’t take my word for it; watch the video. Forgive the shakiness; I shot this on my phone from the passenger side of the car as my husband drove. The video is in real time, with one edit where I paused recording during a traffic light stop.

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  • Pattie Baker

    Rebecca–Thank you for sharing that. I drove that very same route when I joined my friend David Skoke on his gleaning route to deliver somehow unsellable but still edible food to those in need. Among other places, he delivers to both Atlanta Mission and City of Refuge. How fast the neighborhoods changed was eye-opening to me as well, and I wrote about it here:

  • David

    Don’t worry, the low income sections West of the connector will be gobbled up as well. Just look at the East side of town: Inman, Little 5, Candler Park, Edgewood, Kirkwood, O4W. They haven’t all physically changed yet, but the income level of their residents certainly has in a very short amount of time. EAV is next.

    Personally, I think it’s a cycle of development that large cities go through. There’s been a wave of mid- to upper- income households wanting to move back into the city. The housing downturn lit a fuse on that desire. Consider also the tremendous growth we are seeing in jobs here, particularly in IT and startups. The pendulum is swinging from one end to the other very rapidly, which always causes people to take notice. But the cycle will end. Developments, big and small, will conclude and large investment corps will pickup and head to other cities. Higher income urbanites will enjoy the “new” for some time, but as things get older they’ll eventually take their space back out in the suburbs. Income inequality, as you put it, will stabilize, and Atlanta will hopefully be better from the refresh in infrastructure.

    I’ll be happy if we just get Google Fiber.

  • Kristin

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. If our leaders cared more about actual people than themselves and sports we might need some improvement in these blighted neighborhoods – but I doubt it anytime soon!