A música, inicialmente chamada "The Vicious Circle", foi escrita por Mac Davis, embora ele tenha assinado com o nome do filho, Scott. Numa entrevista conta:
My daddy was a small building contractor. There was a guy named Alan Smith that had worked for him for years and years. He was just like part of the family. He was a black man and his little boy, Smitty Junior, was my age and he and I used to play together. Our daddy's would be working and in the summertime Smitty would hang out with me. They lived in a really funky dirt street ghetto. Today's term would be a ghetto. The term 'ghetto' had started to become popular to describe the urban slums. The word was used during the Holocaust to describe those situations but they hadn't used it in an American context until the late Sixties. Smitty Junior lived in a part of Lubbock called Queen City. They had dirt streets and broken glass everywhere. I couldn't understand how these kids could run around barefoot on all that broken glass, I was wondering why they had to live that way and I lived another way. Even though we weren't wealthy or anything it was a whole big step up from the way that Smitty Junior had to live. (...)
A child is born in a situation, his father leaves and he ends up acting out and becoming his father. Being born and dying and being replaced by another child in the same situation is basically what I was talking about. Dying is a metaphor for being born into failure. Being born into a situation where you have no hope. If you listen to the song it's more poignant now than it was then. Instead of getting better it's gotten worse. Back then we had gangs and violence in a few cities, now we have it in almost every American city.(...)
Elvis improved on "In The Ghetto." In fact, it was Elvis' idea to add another "and his mama cries" at the end of that song. I didn't write that in there originally. The song originally finished (sings) "And another little baby child is born ...in the ghetto." That was the end of it. Elvis threw in (sings) "and his mama cries." To me the circle had been done but he just emphasized it by saying "and his mama cries" again. I think he definitely improved it by doing that. It would have been a hit without him doing it but I still think he improved it.Esta música foi gravada juntamente com "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain" e "Don't Cry Daddy" no início de 1969. No ano seguinte são editadas em Portugal sob a forma de dois discos, "In The Ghetto" e "Suspicious Minds".
A revista "Mundo da Canção" chega a imprimir a letra de "In The Ghetto".