launch maea website

MAEA Featured on Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Website as Online Tool to Aid Policymakers

Our Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas (MAEA) is featured on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Website in a piece called “Online Tool Aids Atlanta Policymakers, Community Members” Below is a short excerpt

Online Tool Aids Atlanta Policymakers, Community Members

Metro Atlanta by the numbers
The Atlanta metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of 28 counties is home to roughly 5.3 million people, according to the 2010 Census. It is the seventh largest region nationally. Atlanta’s population grew by 24 percent over the past decade, due largely to an increase in the minority population. The metro Atlanta region is home to roughly 148,000 businesses and is ranked 10th largest in gross domestic product (GDP) nationally and 38th in global gross GDP, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

The metro Atlanta region can be an attractive home for individuals and businesses alike, but the economic prosperity of the region is not evenly distributed. There also appears to be disparate treatment and disenfranchisement of certain segments of the population, particularly minorities and low- and moderate-income people and communities.

Depending on the data source used, median family income and wealth has decreased in Georgia and in the metro Atlanta area despite some positive economic indicators. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimates that Georgians’ incomes are at 1990 levels when adjusted for inflation; the median family income in Atlanta has decreased from $67,829 in 2010 to $66,300 in 2013, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Further, the 2010 Metro Atlanta Chamber estimates the 2010 median household income at an even lower $53,182.CONTINUE READING

income inequality feature

@Cl_ATL Op-Ed: Everyone’s To Blame for Income Inequality

Partnership for Southern Equity’s leader Nathaniel Smith shares his opinion on Atlanta’s Inequality Problem in Creative Loafing Op-Ed:Everyone’s to blame for income inequality.So what needs to be done to fix the problem?

Now that the righteous indignation has quieted over a recent report that the income gap between Atlanta’s rich and poor is greater here than in any other American city, we can’t allow business to go on as usual.

When the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution released its findings that the average annual income for the poorest Atlantans is about $14,850, while the richest earn an average of $297,827, or 18.8 times more, some people were shocked. Adding to the insult is another study that found Atlanta is one of the worst regions in the United States for young people to change their circumstances and rise above poverty.

How could this happen in the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, the black mecca where African-American millionaires are as abundant as dogwood tree blossoms in the spring? How could this happen in a city that markets itself as the capital of the New South because of its progressive ideologies and its commitment, at least in theory, to fairness? It happened because we — all of us — allowed it to happen in some way or another, from policy making to regional planning and from just being silent. CONTINUE READING

equity matters bball

MAEA’s March Madness Re-Cap

MAEA’s March Brackets Resulted In More “Equity Wins” For the Metro Atlanta Region. Check Out “Final Four”  highlights:

We kicked off March with MAEA Fellow Shermaine Perry participating in Sustainable Atlanta’s first annual Greater Atlanta Ecodistricts Initiative Civic Ecology Training workshop at the DeKalb County Central Transfer Station and Administrative Offices. The workshop was designed to educate community members on the elements of civic ecology needed to begin the ecodistrict process. Following the all-day workshop, participants will then begin the process of mapping and understanding existing communities resources based on the civic ecology process. Shermaine found the experience invaluable and enjoyed the “flow map project” which entailed using a map (simulated as the Atlanta University Center surrounding community) to plot and connect community resources, and demonstrate community sustainability in local/closed resource flows. The group had to provide evaluation criteria, justifications for choices, and suggest natural steps for localities to make strides towards building together. The exercise was designed to simulate group think around matching local needs and capacities.  Below are Shermaine’s 6 key takeaways:

  1. Think big, but start small when it comes to sustainability.
  2. Sustainability can be defined as simply matching local needs and capacities. Assess your needs, then Qualify your needs.
  3. Solutions to every issue within ecology can be viewed as needing to: establish, expand, optimize, and maximize.
  4. Benefit-cost analysis is key to promoting sustainability within any region.
  5. Remember that when it comes to the discussion of sustainability, we are all starting with the same undesirable reality.
  6. Each community must define sustainability on their own terms.

March 6th  Partnership for Southern Equity leader Nathaniel Smith served as the keynote speaker for the Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) luncheon that took place at Cox Enterprises‘ Office. Attendees sat attentively as he shared the state of the region, highlighting Atlanta as #1 unfortunately for all of the wrong reasons like income inequality, lack of income mobility for poor children, growth of suburban poverty and poor accessibility for the senior population.


March 11th, Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas Project Manager Erika Hill, informed and demonstrated to Dekalb County residents and community organizations how to use “MAEA” to make an impact in their community. Through a partnership with Decatur Library, community members can now access the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas directly from the Decatur Library website in three places: Local Web Links (in the “Informational” section) on the  Subject Guides page and under the Government section on the  Reference Databases page.

More Maps have been added, visit

me presenting in decatur


Transportation Equity : The Struggle of A Transit Dependent Atlantan

I remember so clearly this past 4th of July seeing a billboard advertising discount tickets for a Gwinnett Braves game on that day as well as telling us there would be fireworks after the game.  Sounds great?  The only thing stopping me is that I don’t have a car and Gwinnett Transit doesn’t run on holidays nor does Gwinnett Transit go there on a regular game day.

Public transportation for me is what gets me from point A to point B.  I was happy to see SPLOST was approved in Gwinnett County.  I would like to see money invested in Gwinnett Transit so that the bus service would run 7 days a week, on holidays and running to at least 11PM.

There has been some unfair statements made that having public transportation increases crime.  What I see riding the bus with me is people like myself riding the bus that is going to work, shopping or at times places of entertainment. The bus is our car! Just normal people trying to make a living!

 Gwinnett County has great places to go like the Mall of Georgia but you can’t get there because no bus runs there. So if someone wants to seek employment at the Mall of Georgia they have to have another form of transportation because there isn’t a bus.

 I have two Wal-Mart’s that are less than five miles from me but I can’t get there because the bus doesn’t run late enough during the week and the bus that goes to both of those Wal-Mart’s don’t run on the weekends. If I want to go to a movie, I can get there on the bus but can’t get back because the bus on some routes stop at 7:00pm.

It is good that they have money from the SPLOST to use for public transportation but there needs to be some advertising as well as corporate sponsors to generate revenue.  There are many companies represented by the people that ride Gwinnett Transit.  In order for any business to be a success there has to be a nucleus of sponsors that help not only the sponsors but Gwinnett Transit to operate to their highest potential. This way the businesses in the community are helping to support the bus system for the people that use the bus system to get to their businesses.

Lastly, I would really like to see an ad hoc committee of public transportation riders that would work with the people that make the decisions about public transportation because the people that make the decisions don’t use public transportation. That way Gwinnett Transit will not just be a spreadsheet to the decision makers but when they hear the input and suggestions from the riders it will make a difference in the decisions that they make.

Source: Reverend Harriet Bradley, Gwinnett Resident

Nathaniel Smith pic

Why The MAEA is Important to The Atlanta Region


For years, Atlanta has prided itself on being the city too busy to hate; now it’s time for Atlanta to become the city never too busy to be fair.

The divide between those who have ‘always had’ and the ones who have ‘never had’ is a national problem, but nowhere is it more apparent than Metro Atlanta where income disparities within communities are enormous and one in four children live below the federally-defined poverty rate.  Worse yet, a recent study found Atlanta to be one of the worst regions in the U.S. for young people to change their circumstances and rise above poverty.

To find out the reason for the imbalance, the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) commissioned a two-year study based on census data, field work and other research tools. The findings, released last week, are the basis of the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas (MAEA), an innovative mapping tool that compares key quality-of-life indicators in the 28 county region to quantify where imbalanced resources are.  Atlanta is one of a handful of cities in the U.S., and the only city in the South, that has conducted such an ambitious study.

MAEA begins where hyperbole ends.  It takes the rhetoric out of saying people have equal opportunities to succeed and looks instead at if they have resources that are proportional, or equitable, to their needs that will help them succeed.

As the nation observes the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Act, much socio-economic progress has been made.  However, many of the issues that divide the rich, the poor and the middle class not only exist, but they are ingrained in policy and decision-making that impact our well-being.

MAEA looked at demographic shifts in the metro area, housing availability, economic development, education, health care, public safety, transportation, and the environment.  Of the eight indicators, having access to public transit and affordable housing in close proximity to development that provides family-wage jobs, and having the education to compete for those jobs, were the most important factors that determine a person’s ability to achieve a high quality of life.

MAEA shattered some of our previous assumptions about Metro Atlanta and reinforced others. Here’s what we learned:

  • The suburbs are no longer predominately white and middle class.   The population of Metro Atlanta has more than doubled in the past 25 years from 2.7 million people in 1985 to 5.3 million in 2010.  Minorities, particularly Hispanics, account for 90 percent of the growth. The region grew by more than one million people in the last decade alone, the bulk of which occurred in Gwinnett County.
  • Poverty, once considered an urban problem, has spread to the suburbs where it increased from 8 percent to 11 percent.
  • Suburban sprawl has negatively impacted peoples’ ability to access family-wage jobs.  The lack of accessible public transportation in the suburbs is causing more than 80 percent of Metro Atlantans to spend 45 percent of their income on combined transportation and housing expenses because many people do not live near their work.
  • The areas with the highest concentrations of African American and Hispanic residents had the highest jobless rates.   Although all metro Atlanta counties lost businesses from 2007 to 2010, the greatest concentration of contiguous census tracts with 4,613 or more jobs per tract is in North Fulton, North DeKalb, mid-Cobb, North Gwinnett and south Forsyth counties. Joblessness in the city of Atlanta, south DeKalb and north Clayton counties ranged from 16 percent to as high as 58 percent.
  • The lack of a regional transportation system not only makes it difficult for people to get to work, it leaves seniors, people with disabilities and people without cars at risk of navigating streets that lack pedestrian infrastructure.  In fact, MAEA found that Metro Atlanta is the 11th deadliest metro area for pedestrians, a grim statistic that comes as no surprise if you read the daily news.
  • Housing development throughout metro Atlanta has focused largely on single family, detached homes.  However, MAEA revealed the fastest growing age group in the region is baby boomers between the ages of 45 to 64.  Those statistics underscore the need for more multi-family housing and transportation options that are not car dependent so people in that age group will have more choices about where they live and shop.
  • MAEA findings also challenge the assumptions that the business executives of the future will remain white, male and educated. The reality is that through changing demographics we have to find ways to unleash the potential of our growing, diverse workforce.  We have to find ways to include the Latino child on Buford Highway, the African American child in Clayton County, and the Ethiopian child in Clarkston.

MAEA is a starting point for a deeper conversation about where inequities are marginalizing neighborhoods. These marginalized neighborhoods are living symbols of the social and economic potential not being realized in Metro Atlanta.

Each of the indicators in MAEA are interconnected and can be improved by a range of specific policy interventions. Improving health outcomes will require taking action to locate homes, schools and jobs in healthy neighborhoods with access to nutritious foods, green space and primary care options. Reducing unemployment will mean taking action to improve elementary and middle school performance, supporting families in extending learning beyond the classroom and surrounding children with positive options for after school activities that can reduce juvenile delinquency. Expanding transportation options to give people more access to family-wage jobs and affordable housing requires political will, collaborative approaches and genuine community engagement.

These are certainly complicated tasks, but they must begin in earnest if Metro Atlanta is to become a region that offers hope and success to all who work and live here.

Nathaniel Q. Smith, Jr. is the Founder & Chief Equity Officer for the Partnership for Southern Equity


MAEA Mentioned On EPA Blog As A Tool For Environmental Justice

Our country’s immigration boom has been sustained by the dream of opportunity threaded with equity. When community residents have access to an equitable standard of housing, occupation, education, and healthy and safe environments, this idyllic dream becomes reality and creates a space where people can thrive. But what do we really mean when we talk about equity? How is equity distinct from equality?

Equity can be used to describe the quality of fairness and inclusion that people receive.  Equity attempts to deliver justice without partiality, while equality seeks to deliver homogeneity across recipients. This idea can be portrayed with a simple anecdote. If I give two children, Sally and James an apple, it may appear that the distribution of both apples is equal. However, if James has not eaten in several days and Sally is on schedule to receive a small snack, James’s degree of satisfaction received from consuming his apple will be much less than Sally’s.  Not only does equity seek to level the playing field, it also ensures runners are prepared to race when they kneel at the starting blocks.

The objective of the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas (MAEA) – the first equity mapping system of its kind in the Southeast – is simple. MAEA seeks to make clear the ways to unlock regional prosperity and growth. This only occurs when communities have equitable access to a range of highly interconnected resources; see for more information.

As  a new regional online data tool, MAEA was designed to connect local stakeholders to timely, accurate data. By examining eight key areas of community well-being –demographics, economic development, education, environment, health, housing, public safety and transportation – the MAEA offers fascinating insight into the state of our region, particularly as it relates to issues of access and opportunity. The MAEA also provides local change makers with the information they need to provide vital facts and data to enhance their community efforts.Read more

Source: EPA Gov Blog

The MAEA Reveal Recap

The air was ripe for the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas launch. Several critical dialogues took place around the city :
1. Late October with Eco Districts, a self-defined area that is committed to achieving ambitious sustainability performance goals while tracking results over time
2.Operation Hope’s Global Summit
3.CNN Dialogues about Food Insecurity

On November 19, 2013 more than 200 people with folks representing various sectors like academia, business community, community based organizations, political officials, foundations etc. This red carpet affair took place in the heart of Southwest Atlanta at the Loft at Castleberry Hill. Attendees enjoyed group photo opportunities, lively conversation and marveled at the Atlas maps on display around the room. The program speakers were a reflection of the collaborative effort of The MAEA with remarks provided by NeighborWorks America, Enterprise Community Partners, The Annie Casey Foundation and Georgia Department of Public Health. The highlight of the evening was when MAEA Co-Chair, Dr. Kelly Hill, revealed The MAEA website to the audience, emphasizing the 8 topic areas, the ease of use and navigation of the site and sharing the instructional video. Dr. Hill briefly walked the audience through The MAEA report pointing out startling facts about Atlanta in terms of Demographics, Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, Housing, Public Safety and Transportation. Nathaniel Smith delivered a heartfelt call to action which I hope you will embrace as well. The MAEA is a here so the real work starts NOW. We need YOU to use The MAEA and be a part of the change you want to see in your community!

Mapping the Movement

The launching of Partnership for Southern Equity’s (PSE’s) Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas and companion report is only the beginning. Work will have to be done to connect MAEA’s data and value proposition to the hearts, minds and efforts of our region’s thought leaders and everyday heroes. In the coming months “Mapping a movement,” will showcase the collaborative efforts of PSE, its partners and national initiatives that leverage mapping, data, and educational strategies for a more equitable and prosperous region and beyond.

We ask that you share and discuss the thoughts, recommendations and information found in MAEA to your family, friends and colleagues. Engage in future efforts organized by PSE’s network and county-wide Equity HUBs. A more equitable region will not be realized without your support. Lastly, tell us how MAEA has supported your equity efforts. We will feature your story and others to encourage and inspire a new generation of ideas and champions for shared prosperity.