Increasing numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs

One of the important shifts revealed in the 2010 Census is the increasing number of minorities in the American suburbs (also see the thoughts of the 2010 Census director here). This is particularly true of blacks who have moved from the city to the suburbs and this raises some concerns about the future of the neighborhoods they are leaving behind:

Taylor’s decision to live outside Chicago makes him part of a shift tracked by the 2010 Census that surprised many demographers and urban planners: He is among hundreds of thousands of blacks who moved away from cities with long histories as centers of African-American life, including Chicago, Oakland, Washington, New Orleans and Detroit…

Chicago’s population fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010, and blacks accounted for almost 89% of that drop. Hispanics surpassed blacks as the city’s largest minority group. Meanwhile, Plainfield grew by 204% overall, and its black population soared by more than 2,000%, the fastest rate in the region…

The trend has broad policy implications: As blacks who can afford to live in the suburbs depart, will cities have enough resources to help the low-income blacks left behind? Will the demand for housing be strong enough to support the revitalization of traditionally black inner-city neighborhoods? How will black churches, businesses and cultural institutions be affected? Will traffic congestion worsen because blacks moving to the suburbs keep their jobs in the city?

Roderick Harrison, a sociologist at Howard University in Washington and a former chief of the racial statistics branch of the Census Bureau, says the changes reflect the improving economic status of some African Americans.

Traffic seems to be a lesser issue compared to some of these bigger questions. And these questions are not new: at least since the 1980s, commentators have been asking about what may happen to urban neighborhoods and institutions when middle-class Blacks leave for the suburbs.

We could also ask about how this might change the suburbs. Are we at the point as a society where suburban residents really just care about social class, i.e. being able to buy into the suburbs and maintain a middle-class lifestyle? Or will whites leave suburban neighborhoods when Blacks move in just as they did in urban neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s? I wrote earlier about how minorities were fitting into Schaumburg, a noted edge city outside of the Chicago, and a noted historian, Thomas Sugrue, suggested that the move of Blacks to the suburbs in the Detroit region may not be all that positive. I suspect there will be a lot of discussions in suburbs about these changes, often couched in terms of issues like affordable housing (see this example from the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka), property values, and the quality of schools.

It is interesting to note that Plainfield is cited in this particular story: Joliet, Plainfield, Aurora, and the suburban region far southwest of Chicago is a booming area. And if you were curious about the African-American growth in Plainfield, it was 0.8% Black in 2000 (110 out of 13,038) and is roughly 6% Black in 2010 (out of 39,581).

5 thoughts on “Increasing numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs

  1. I have lived in the West Rogers Park neighborhood in the north side of Chicago for nine years. My last few years there, the Black population went up drastically. Soon, I was forced to move because the neighborhood had started to decline. Cars started to be broken into, as well as groups of 7 or more of them would roam the streets at 3am talking loudly and causing havoc.

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