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ATL black population shift not from razed projects

11:14 PM, May 18, 2011   |    comments
The 2010 census makes it clear that there is a modern-day migration underway, as black families leave Atlanta and relocate to the suburbs. But contrary to what a lot of people thought, it's not the displaced poor who are behind those numbers.
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ATLANTA -- The 2010 census makes it clear that there is a modern-day migration underway, as black families leave Atlanta and relocate to the suburbs.

But contrary to what a lot of people thought, it's not the displaced poor who are behind those numbers.

During the last decade, the city's urban landscape underwent a profound metamorphosis, as the public housing projects were demolished one-by-one. In many cases, new upscale developments replaced what were basically dangerous crime factories.

But in order to do that, thousands of residents had to be uprooted and displaced.

The conventional wisdom was that they left the city and went to suburban communities like Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties, all of which saw large population spikes among African-American residents.

But researchers say that's a myth, quite literally an urban legend. Because most of the former public housing tenants stayed in Atlanta.

"80 to 85 percent of the people in our study moved within the city limits," said Georgia State University sociology professor Deirdre Oakley. "And typically they moved within three miles. That's the average moving distance from their public housing homes. So we didn't find very many at all that moved outside the city of Atlanta

Professor Oakley says the reason people stayed put is simple: Public transportation. Most relocated near MARTA lines.

While some of the displaced residents returned to the new and improved developments, many more simply took their vouchers from the Atlanta Housing Authority and relocated to other places. Typically these were still poor communities, but respondents to the survey felt the neighborhoods also had less crime and fostered less fear.

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