Money’s Best Places to Live list has been around for 35 years and counting. And if you’ve come across it in any one of those years, you know that Atlanta is very different from the kinds of places that usually make the cut. Especially at the very top.
This is no accident. At a time when people are becoming much more introspective about their role in society (see: the rise of “quiet quitting,” union organizing and the recent wave of teacher, nurse, and railroad worker strikes), our goal this year was to name a number one where anyone can feel like they belong.
And for that, Atlanta is hard to beat.
Atlanta isn’t a massive city. Population-wise, it hovers right below 500,000, on par with Kansas City and Omaha. But both culturally and economically, the Georgia capital punches way above its weight.
It’s the fourth-largest Black-majority city in the U.S., and the proud hometown of Martin Luther King Jr. It has some of the best universities in the country, including Georgia Tech — which ranked 6th on Money’s 2022 list of Best Colleges — and a culinary scene that champions steakhouses and greasy spoon diners in equal measure. It has America’s largest puppetry museum, and America’s only trap music museum. It has professional baseball, and it has drag shows. (Sometimes, it even has baseball-themed drag shows).
No matter what kind of person you are, Atlanta is a place where you can feel at home. And, just as important, it’s also a place where you can find a job.
Our data and reporting show that Atlanta’s labor market — the number of jobs available in a range of different occupations — is exceptionally strong. It’s still a job seeker’s market no matter where in the U.S. you happen to live, but Atlanta’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average. Better yet, the city’s job growth has been consistently outpacing the U.S. for more than a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tech jobs are driving much of that growth: Atlanta also has a flourishing startup ecosystem, fueled by a growing number of tech incubators and venture capital firms stationed there. Silicon Valley behemoths like Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have all recently opened up shop in Atlanta, as have new, popular startups, like the inclusivity-centric marketing platform We Are Rosie and the meeting scheduling app Calendly.
“Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of growth in terms of being able to scale a company here,” says Aaron Hurst, founding director of Endeavor Atlanta, a startup accelerator that caters to entrepreneurs in underserved markets. “Now, people are starting to view Atlanta as a good place to launch their career.”
Like every place on this list, Atlanta is not perfect. Rising prices have had an outsized impact on the city’s most vulnerable residents, and have made it increasingly hard for legacy Black families to afford to live comfortably. An incoming wave of new residents—the 11 counties that make up the city’s commutable area are expected to gain 2.5 million people by 2040, bringing it to a total of 8 million—stands to exacerbate the problem.
Still, Atlanta stands out not because of its shortcomings (these are issues facing every major city in the U.S.), but what it’s doing to solve them.
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