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U.S. Census: Blacks Flee Cities for Suburbs

Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 2/6/2012, 8:51 p.m.

Significant Implications for Education, Jobs and Housing

Newly released census data shows that blacks moved away in large numbers from many of America's major cities to the suburbs, with the most significant shifts in population occurring in the South.

The motivation behind the move between 2000 and 2010 included the promise of well-paying jobs, better amenities and a desire on the part of parents to move to stronger schools and safer neighborhoods. Meanwhile, as blacks move away from urban centers, there has been a corresponding influx of whites which is changing the complexion of these cities.

"This could lead to the potential bifurcation of life in the city," said Julianne Malveaux, a noted economist and author. "There are also questions about political power and political sensitivity. Will someone in Ward 3 want to transfer goods, services and opportunities elsewhere (to less affluent wards)? Will they vote for schools in another ward?"

What Do These Shifts Portend?

Malveaux was among a panel of census officials, demographers and experts assembled by the National Urban League at Black Entertainment Television in Northeast to discuss the survey and findings on Thursday, Feb. 2. They spoke before an audience of about 50 people about the profound implications for blacks economically, politically, socially and educationally as a result of these population shifts.

The panel consisted of five participants and moderator Kristal Lauren High, founding editor-in-chief of Politics 365, a multimedia publication which focuses on politics and policy issues that have an impact on people of color.

In the District of Columbia, the departure of blacks to the suburbs has meant the dilution of their numbers in the nation's capital. Currently, blacks make up about 55 percent of the population, down from a high of about 75 percent in the 1990s, prompting a number of black residents to lament the loss of their beloved "Chocolate City." Speculation is also rife about how this translates politically.

Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, said she has already started to see the changing patterns, adding that the new racial character of cities is noticeable, including in Greensboro, N.C. where Bennett College is located. She said the drop in the black population will likely spark speculation about the concentration of black political power, the power of blacks' political voice and how well blacks will be able to leverage that to effect meaningful change.

"What type of conversations we have will be around what our country will look like. [Blacks'] political power is waning," she said. "I'm [also] interested in the gender balance and who's left."

Malveaux said she believes there will be a gender imbalance with more women left behind in cities, and that population will be "blacker, browner, older and younger."

Odis Johnson Jr., an assistant professor in African American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, agreed with Malveaux.

"When I first saw these figures, I realized that bifurcation is truly happening," he said of the deepening divisions. "Residential opportunity leads to educational attainment. People are being driven out of schools which is why they are leaving the cities. There is a 52 percent increase in poverty in the suburbs because of policies pushing blacks with lower incomes into suburban areas."