Founded in 1837 at the intersection of two railroad lines, Atlanta quickly grew into a center of commerce and culture in the South. While part of a larger metropolitan area of more than five million inhabitants, the city of Atlanta itself is relatively small with just under 464,000 residents.
In recent years, Atlanta has experienced significant growth, which may be a sign that longstanding efforts to develop transit corridors and bring people into the city are bearing some fruit. In fact, between 2010 and 2015, the city grew an estimated 10 percent. As a substantial portion of the city’s new residents are young white Americans, this growth has resulted in significant demographic change: while African Americans made up nearly two-thirds of all city residents in 1990, they now account for just slightly more than half (54 percent). Of the remainder, 38 percent are white American, 5 percent are Hispanic or Latino American, and 3 percent are Asian American.
Despite the city’s growth, poverty remains a significant problem, particularly among communities of color. According to a 2015 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the median income of Atlanta’s white American families was more than three times that of Atlanta’s African American families ($84,944 vs. $26,605). Even more striking, 80 percent of Atlanta's African American children live in neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty, compared to just 6 percent of white American children.
The city has a range of community wealth building initiatives working to address these disparities and related challenges. For example, Focused Community Strategies (FCS) works in underserved Atlanta neighborhoods to nurture positive, sustainable change that builds from neighborhood assets, supports local leaders, and fosters social and spiritual vitality. Since focusing its programs on Historic South Atlanta in 2001, FCS has restored over 140 homes in the area and has catalyzed several social enterprises, creating local jobs and new community safe spaces. Working to ensure long-term affordable homeownership, the Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative (ALTC) incubates and supports the development and operation of independent community land trusts and has generated more than $4 million to support such development.
Local government and other city anchor institutions are also playing a key role in building community wealth. For instance, Invest Atlanta, the city’s official economic development authority, administers a range of loan programs to support small business growth. Similarly, the Atlanta University Center Consortium, the largest consortia of African American private institutions of higher education, runs CommUniversity through which it offers classes and resources to the community focused on financial education, leadership, small business development, and homebuyer education.
An overview of community wealth building efforts follows: