Publication Date



Black Internal Migration and Inter-racial Socioeconomic Inequality in Atlanta and

Other Metropolitan Areas: Has It Changed in the Past 35 Years?


Using recent American Community Survey data this paper compares levels of black internal migration to metropolitan Atlanta and 70 other metro areas in the 1970s and the early 2010s, and it evaluates how much change has occurred, since 1980, in black-white socio-economic inequality (college graduation percentage and per capita income) to evaluate the idea of Atlanta as a “black mecca.”

Key findings and conclusions are: (1) Atlanta has become the pre-eminent destination for black internal migrants, but contrary to popular opinion it cannot be characterized as mainly “black return migration” from the North to the South; (2) compared to most metro areas, Atlanta has had significant advancement in black educational attainment, but the percentage of college graduates among Atlanta’s whites has risen even more, so a large gap between the amount of white and black college graduates in Atlanta still exists, which disadvantages African Americans in competition for the best jobs, most of which require a college degree; (3) analysis of per capita income data does not support metropolitan Atlanta’s reputation as one of the top areas for black economic achievement or improvement; and (4) neither Atlanta nor most other metro areas show much improvement in black per capita income since 1980; and (5) the gap between black and white per capita income has actually widened in metro areas experiencing the most growth in high tech, information, financial, and business services.