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Your Guide to Moving to Atlanta

View of atlanta skyline from Centennial park, with buildings, trees, and ferris wheel
Dan Reynolds Photography / Shutterstock

Atlanta, Georgia, at a glance:

  • The city of Atlanta has more than 895,000 residents.
  • The cost of living in Atlanta is relatively affordable, 2.3% lower than the rest of the country.
  • If you’re on the job hunt, you’ll be glad to know that 10 Fortune 500 companies call Atlanta home, including Coca-Cola and The Home Depot.
  • Atlanta is home to five professional sports teams, so you won’t be left hanging come game day.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the country and has flights to more than 75 destinations in more than 50 counties.

Moving to Atlanta: The basics

What’s the population of Atlanta?

The city itself has a population of 895,280 residents. The greater Atlanta metro area as a whole is one of the fastest-growing in the nation. The metro grew 1.25% from 2018 to 2020, reaching 6,020,364 people.

The median age in Atlanta is 33 years old. The city has a relatively high concentration of single people at 69%, with a pretty even gender distribution. If you’re a young single professional, you won’t be alone in Atlanta!

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What’s the cost of living in Atlanta?

When moving to Atlanta, you might be pleased to hear that Atlanta has a relatively affordable cost of living, which is 2.3% of the national average.

House-hunters should know that housing is 6% lower in Atlanta. The median home price in the area is $365,442. For renters, the median rent is $1,207/mo.

Groceries in the city are more expensive than in other areas of the country. For instance, they are 3.86% more expensive in Atlanta compared to Charlotte, North Carolina. If you’re stocking up on essentials, expect to pay $4.15 for a loaf of bread, $1.59 for a half-gallon of milk, and $1.19 for a carton of eggs.

Atlanta residents receive an average salary of $54,374 and pay state income tax of 5.75%.

But how does living in Atlanta stack up against other cities? The chart below compares Atlanta’s numbers with a few other cities:

City Cost of Living

(Of national average)

Average Salary Median Home Price Median Rent
Atlanta, GA 2.3% higher $54,374 $261,400 $1,099
Austin, TX 0.2% higher $48,556 $339,470 $1,207
Dallas, TX 8.3% higher $48,358 $385,720 $1,603

*Data sourced from the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index

How’s the Atlanta job market?

Traditionally, Atlanta’s job market continually outperforms the national job market as a whole. For example, total non-farm employment grew 2.1% in October 2019 compared to the previous year. Compare that to national job growth of 1.4% during the same period. Atlanta has enjoyed year-over-year gains in job opportunities each month since July 2010.

However, like other cities in the United States, Atlanta’s unemployment rate took a sharp upward turn following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Following a peak of 12.7% in April 2020, it has steadily declined to the current rate of 8.5% in August 2020.

If you’re job searching in the area, you should know that Southeast Atlanta is a major business hub and is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, including The Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola. Other top employers include Emory University (and its healthcare system), Northside Hospital, Piedmont Healthcare, and Publix Supermarkets.

What do I need to know about Atlanta education?

Atlanta Public Schools enrolls approximately 52,000 students annually in grades Pre-K through 12. The location-based system has 91 learning sites, including 58 neighborhood schools, six partner schools, 18 charter schools, two citywide single-gender academies, and three alternative programs. The school system has a graduation rate of 77.9%, coming short of the national graduation rate of 84.6%. Due to the pandemic of 2020, APS schools started the 2020-2021 school year with virtual learning for the first nine weeks, and look to transition to in-person learning shortly thereafter.

The Atlanta area has a robust selection of charter schools that operate independently of the school system. Interested students must apply to attend. There are also more than 100 private schools in Atlanta, with an average tuition of $19,186 for high schools and $11,159 for elementary schools.

The region is a hub for higher education as well, with 57 colleges and universities in the metro area. Notably, Atlanta is home to four Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. Other top universities include Emory University and Georgia State University.

What are the safest areas in Atlanta?

Admittedly, living in ATL is not always the safest city in the United States. According to Neighborhood Scout, it’s just 2% safer than other U.S. cities with a crime rate of 58 per 1,000 residents.

That said, crime varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some of the safest neighborhoods are clustered in the southwestern and northeastern parts of the city. If you’re looking for the safest part of the Atlanta metro, check out areas near Campbellton and Cedar Grove in the far southwest part of Fulton County. Other areas topping Neighborhood Scout’s safest areas list are North Kirkwood and South Fulton.

If you’d like to deep-dive on specific parts of the city, the Atlanta Police Department has a ton of local data and incident reports you can look at online for free.

How do I get around Atlanta?

First, the good news: Atlanta has a public transportation system connecting the city, Fulton County, and DeKalb County by light rail and buses. Passengers take more than 420,000 trips with MARTA every week.

The bad news? Atlanta is tied with Los Angeles for the worst public transit in the country, according to a recent study. That’s because it takes an average of 53 minutes to get to work by public transit. Fewer than 10% of commuters have a 30-minute or shorter trip. By car, the average journey takes about 32 minutes.

If you want a fun way to get around town, there are many dockless vehicles, including electric scooters and bicycles, in the city, although that number has been greatly reduced during the pandemic under new city guidelines. There are also plenty of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, and ATL’s homegrown Autter, which is geared toward riders under 18 years old. However, Autter currently is on hold as the pandemic continues.

But at the end of the day, Atlanta is an extremely car-centric city, with more than 83% of households owning at least one car.

What’s the weather like in Atlanta?

Atlanta is known for its hot and muggy summers — hence the endearing nickname “Hot-lanta.” If you’re not one for the cold, this is the place for you. The short and mild winters average just two snow days a year. Atlanta has about 117 days of sunshine each year on average, and about the same number of rainy days as well.

The hottest month of the year is typically July, when average temperatures reach 86 degrees. The coldest month is usually December, when temps plunge to an average of 35 degrees. All in all, though, Atlanta’s climate is fairly mild, with an average annual high temperature of 72 degrees and an average low of 53 degrees.

What are Atlanta’s fastest-growing neighborhoods?

The rapidly expanding Atlanta metro population is expected to increase more than 56% by 2050 — reaching a population of more than 8.6 million people with more folks moving to ATL. Most of the growth is expected within the city, northern suburbs, and near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Here is a closer look at the areas that are already starting to boom in Atlanta:

In Atlanta

Summerhill

Located directly south of downtown, in between Zoo Atlanta to the east and Interstate-85 to the west, Summerhill is on its way to becoming a big deal in Atlanta. The 80-acre master-planned neighborhood is a redevelopment of the area surrounding the former Olympic stadium, now Center Parc Credit Union Stadium, the stadium for Georgia State University. Developers are transforming the area into a mixed-use extension of downtown to include shops, restaurants, and apartments. Already 1, 976 folks live here with many more expected to come. The median home value in Summerhill is $155,704, and the average rent in the area is $755/mo.

Midtown

Midtown is a bustling commercial and residential area north of downtown and east of I-85. It’s one of the most vibrant parts of the city, with its popular boutiques, coffee shops, green spaces, and music venues. Housing options range from lofts and apartments to single-family homes. Midtown has about 16,659 residents. The median home value is about $355,944, and the average rent is $1,444/mo.

East Atlanta and East Atlanta Village

Considered one of the hippest neighborhoods in ATL, East Atlanta Village serves as a gateway to the rest of East Atlanta, which is quickly becoming one of the most sought after areas for homebuyers. As a major hub for arts and music, East Atlanta is one of the most rapidly transforming parts of the city. It has a population of about 5,116 people and growing.

East Atlanta has a more suburban vibe than Midtown, but still has plenty of shops, bars, restaurants, and one of the best farmers markets in town. Its position along I-20 makes getting in and out relatively easy. The median list price in East Atlanta Village is $550,000, while East Atlanta as a whole comes in at about $399,000. The average price for a rental in the area is $1,142/mo.

In the Atlanta metro area

Chamblee

About 14 miles northeast of downtown, the suburb of Chamblee is one of the fastest-growing parts of the metro area. With its own historic downtown full of unique stores and eateries, parks, and events, Chamblee has much to offer families and young professionals alike.

Chamblee is also home to Atlanta Chinatown, offering a rich array of Chinese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Korean restaurants and shops. With a median home value of $245,500, Chamblee offers a more affordable option for its 28,748 residents. The average rent in the area goes for $1,188/mo. The commute into downtown takes about 45 minutes.

Norcross

A bit further northeast from Chamblee is Norcross, another suburb of Atlanta growing in popularity. Norcross has its historic downtown as well, in addition to highly rated schools and parks. This dense suburban village has a population of 16, 369 — it’s seen a 148% increase in renters over the last five years. The average rent in the area is $1,089/mo. For home buyers, the median list price is $263,000. If you’re planning on commuting into the city proper, know that you can usually get downtown in less than 45 minutes, although that can increase during heavy traffic.

Living in Atlanta, GA: The fun part

For the sports fan

Atlanta has everything a sports fan could ask for, with five professional sports franchises calling the Peach State home, including major league soccer and women’s basketball. College sports are just as big, with Georgia State and Georgia Tech participating in NCAA Division 1 sports. Atlanta Motor Speedway also fields several NASCAR and other racing events throughout the year.

Atlanta’s pro teams include:

  • Atlanta Braves (baseball)
  • Atlanta Falcons (football)
  • Atlanta Hawks (basketball)
  • Atlanta United FC (soccer)
  • Atlanta Dream (women’s basketball)

For the culture-seeker

Atlanta has 42 museums that pay tribute to the city’s deep cultural roots and its business legacy. Several explore Atlanta’s connection to the civil rights movement, including The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, The King Center, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Other top attractions include the Delta Flight Museum, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the High Museum of Art. Kids will especially love the Center for Puppetry Arts, where they can enjoy daily puppet shows and more than 500 retired muppets on display.

For the foodie

Sweet tea, fried chicken, and biscuits are the southern staples that Atlanta does better than just about any other city below the Mason-Dixon, just another good reason for moving to Atlanta. One of Atlanta’s lesser-known signature staples is lemon pepper wet wings, which are covered in clarified butter or buffalo sauce, depending on your wing shack of choice. Atlanta is home to a whole world of flavors, including the savory chicken liver tart at Staplehouse and the Korean BBQ pork sandwich from Heirloom Market BBQ. You also can enjoy one of the local brews at Atlanta’s 30 breweries.

For the traveler

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest in the world, with more than 2,700 departures and arrivals each day. The airport flies to over 75 destinations in more than 50 counties. It’s about a 20- to 30-minute drive to the airport from downtown, or you can take a MARTA train.

But you don’t have to jump on a plane to get away for a spell. The mountains are only an hour away and offer stunning hikes, camping, and small towns like Dahlonega and Helen. Three major interstates, I-75, I-85, and I-20, converge in Atlanta, making the city a crossroads of sorts for travelers in the Southeast.

For the outdoor explorer

If you love the great outdoors, you’ll love Atlanta. That’s because the city boasts more green space per resident than any other city in the country, with 417 city parks and 61 hiking trails. The surrounding area offers even more activities, such as hikes up Arabia Mountain, waterfalls at Warwoman Dell, and watercraft rentals from Shoot the ‘Hooch.

What you probably didn’t know about Atlanta

When moving to Atlanta, there’s a whole lot to learn about the city after you arrive. The more you know before you go, the better. Here are a few facts that might surprise you:

    • Atlanta got its start as a railroad town. The area that would become the city was first named Terminus in 1837, as it designated the end of the line for the recently completed Western and Atlantic railroad. In 1845, it became officially known as Atlanta.
    • There’s a good chance you might run into a celebrity. Georgia’s tax breaks for the film industry have turned the state into one of the top places outside of Hollywood for making movies and TV shows.
    • Atlanta is home to one of only two cycloramas in the United States. What’s a cyclorama? It’s a giant painting wrapped around the inside of a circular room that revolves around the viewer, completely immersing them in the scene. The Atlanta Cyclorama depicts the Battle of Atlanta during the Civil War. Completed in 1886, the painting is 49 feet tall and has a circumference longer than a football field.
    • The largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere lives here, filled with more than 10 million gallons of water. The Georgia Aquarium has hosted more than 18 million visitors since it opened in 2005.
    • If you are meeting someone on Peachtree, you better be specific. There are more than 70 roads in Atlanta with Peachtree in the name.

If you’re interested in moving to the area, check out our city page on Atlanta!

The bottom line

Atlanta is the shining jewel of the Southeast, offering a diverse stew of cultures, cuisines, and activities that have made the city one of the fastest-growing places to live in America. Of course, this guide is only a brief snapshot. To get fully acquainted before moving to Atlanta, read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the region’s only major newspaper. Other quality, in-depth resources include the Atlanta Tribune and Atlanta Magazine, as well as the city’s public radio station, WABE. For information about city services and regulations, check out the official website for the City of Atlanta.

Karon Warren contributed to this post.


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