A Profile of Youth and Young Adults in Atlanta

Posted March 17, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young person of Hispanic descent — wearing a hoodie with a jean jacket — looks over their shoulder into the camera. They are standing outside, and the Atlanta skyline is in the background.

Youth and young adult­hood, span­ning approx­i­mate­ly ages 14 through 24, are crit­i­cal stages of devel­op­ment. Dur­ing this phase, young peo­ple expe­ri­ence pro­found phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes and must nav­i­gate increas­ing auton­o­my, form­ing their iden­ti­ty, learn­ing socio-emo­tion­al and life skills, obtain­ing edu­ca­tion and job train­ing and more. This for­ma­tive tran­si­tion­al peri­od is a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty for par­ents, care­givers and adults in the com­mu­ni­ty — as well as pro­grams, invest­ments and poli­cies — to sup­port young peo­ple and help put them on a pos­i­tive path for the future.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Cen­ter, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with local part­ners, pro­vides wide-rang­ing data on the well-being of youth and young adults in Atlanta, cov­er­ing pover­ty, edu­ca­tion, employ­ment, health, teen births and more. This pro­file high­lights key find­ings from these data, as well as select data from the Geor­gia Stu­dent Health Survey.

Key Find­ings on Atlanta Youth

While issues such as pover­ty, stu­dent absen­teeism, racial and eth­nic inequities, men­tal health and access to health insur­ance remain seri­ous chal­lenges for young peo­ple in Atlanta, the city has made mean­ing­ful progress in oth­er areas, includ­ing improv­ing high school grad­u­a­tion rates, sup­port­ing young peo­ple in the tran­si­tion to adult­hood and reduc­ing teen births.


  • The pover­ty rate for chil­dren dropped by more than 50% between 2005 and 2021: Atlanta’s child pover­ty rate fell from 49% in 2005 (the first year avail­able) to 24% in 2021 — a 512% drop. At the same time, the city’s child pover­ty rate remained well above the state (20%) and U.S. (17%) rates in 2021. In 2021, near­ly one in four Atlanta kids — approx­i­mate­ly 20,000 — lived below the fed­er­al pover­ty level.
  • Atlanta’s young adult pover­ty rate remains high and con­sis­tent­ly exceeds state and U.S. rates: In the last two decades, a much larg­er share of Atlanta’s young adults, ages 18 to 24, have expe­ri­enced pover­ty com­pared to those statewide and nation­al­ly. For instance, the lat­est data in 2017 show that more than 1 in 3 (35%) Atlanta young adults lived in pover­ty ver­sus about 1 in 5 across Geor­gia and nation­wide. While the city’s young adult pover­ty rate has come down since its peak of 48% in 2012, the 2017 rate is about the same as it was in 2005 (36%), the first year avail­able in the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Edu­ca­tion and the Tran­si­tion to Adulthood

Health and Safety

  • Approx­i­mate­ly 1 in 12 ninth-grade stu­dents report using alco­hol in the past 30 days: In 2020, 8% of ninth-graders in Atlanta and statewide report­ed using alco­hol in the past month. While this is an improve­ment from city (9%) and state (13%) fig­ures in 2014 (first year avail­able), the share of Atlanta ninth-grade stu­dents report­ing recent alco­hol use had dropped to 5% in 2017 and has since inched upward.
  • 1 in 10 high school­ers report using mar­i­jua­na in the past 30 days: Accord­ing to the 2022 Geor­gia Stu­dent Health Sur­vey, 10% of high school stu­dents in Atlanta Pub­lic Schools report­ed using mar­i­jua­na in the past month. Small­er shares of high school­ers report­ed either cig­a­rette smok­ing or use of any oth­er tobac­co prod­ucts in the last 30 days, at 4% and 6%, respec­tive­ly. When asked where they usu­al­ly use tobac­co, drugs or alco­hol, 13% of high school­ers said at home or a friend’s home and 7% said at school or in a car, while 76% said they do not use these substances.
  • The share of Atlanta chil­dren with­out health insur­ance more than dou­bled in 2021: The rate of unin­sured chil­dren jumped from 4% in 2019 to 9% in 2021, rep­re­sent­ing 9,000 young peo­ple with­out any health cov­er­age. The city’s 2021 unin­sured rate for this age group was high­er than both the statewide (7%) and nation­al (6%) rates.
  • In 2020, 44 teens ages 15 to 19 died in Atlanta (due to all caus­es com­bined): The num­ber of teen deaths fluc­tu­ates each year and ranged between 16 and 36 per year from 2011 to 2019, with 2020 rep­re­sent­ing a high­er num­ber of youth deaths than usu­al. While the teen death rate is not avail­able for Atlanta, it is avail­able for the sur­round­ing Ful­ton Coun­ty, and Atlanta is the most pop­u­lous city in the coun­ty (and state). This coun­ty rate shows that teen deaths due to homi­cides, sui­cides and acci­dents increased from 30.6 to 51.9 per 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 between 2012 and 2021. While the coun­ty rate also fluc­tu­ates from year to year, the 2021 fig­ure dropped below the statewide rate of 54.9 per 100,000 that year.

Men­tal Health

  • Half of Atlanta high school­ers report feel­ing depressed, sad or with­drawn: Accord­ing to the 2022 Geor­gia Stu­dent Health Sur­vey, ful­ly 50% of high school stu­dents in Atlanta Pub­lic Schools report­ed feel­ing depressed, sad or with­drawn at least once in the past 30 days. Fur­ther, more than one-third (36%) of these stu­dents expe­ri­enced intense anx­i­ety, wor­ries or fears that got in the way of their dai­ly activ­i­ties at least once in the pre­vi­ous month.
  • More than 1 in 10 high school stu­dents have seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered attempt­ing sui­cide in the past year: The same Geor­gia Stu­dent Health Sur­vey also found that 11% of high school stu­dents in Atlanta Pub­lic Schools seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered attempt­ing sui­cide at least once in the last 12 months. At the state lev­el, this fig­ure was 13%. The most com­mon rea­sons Atlanta stu­dents cit­ed for con­sid­er­ing sui­cide were relat­ed to the demands of school work or aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance, prob­lems with peers (e.g., friends, social media or bul­ly­ing) and fam­i­ly issues.

Teen Births

More Data and Resources About Youth and Young Adults

Access all data for Atlanta and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties in Geor­gia and all oth­er youth and young adult data in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter. Learn more about the chal­lenges fac­ing youth, as well as oppor­tu­ni­ties to sup­port them, in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Thrive by 25® announce­ment. Addi­tion­al resources to explore:

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