How Urban Growth Is Helping Predict Our Future

A new study from the Brookings Institution explores the changing demographics of American cities and explains why they’re important.

Posted: 09/01/2011 09:06 AM EDT
Filed Under Census

We’ve spoken before in this space about the changing demographics of America. According to the latest census data, African-Americans fled to the suburbs in huge numbers between 2000 and 2010, hugely changing the makeup of a lot of the country’s urban areas. For instance, in Washington, D.C., once known as the "Chocolate City,” Blacks are no longer the majority.

 

That being said, to hear some people tell it, you’d think that all of America’s great metropolises were becoming havens for wealthy white families, and chasing away all the Blacks who have roots in these locales. According to new research from the public policy think tank the Brookings Institution, however, that’s not what’s happening at all.

 

Because of what you’ve read about Blacks heading to the South and to the suburbs at record rates, you might be surprised to discover that a full 98 percent of the people moving into America’s biggest cities over the last decade have been minorities. Indeed, though the white population finally overtook the Black population in D.C., nearly all of the people moving to other big cities weren’t white. In fact, almost half of America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas lost white citizens, and 22 of them now have majority minority populations.

 

As you might imagine, much of this urban growth was due to the influx of Latinos, the fastest-growing ethnic population in America. In fact, almost half of Latinos in America are now clustered into just 10 major cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas. Asians are similarly condensed, with 33 percent of them living in L.A., New York City, or San Francisco.

 

For their part, though, many Blacks left a lot of northern metro areas, like Chicago and New York, and moved to the suburbs. Many more immigrants certainly weren’t afraid of "the big city." Atlanta, Dallas and Houston all had increases in their Black populations.

 

Changing demographics are important where issues like politics and voting are concerned, especially with regard to congressional districting. But they’re especially important in understanding the America of tomorrow. A lot has been said about the incoming Latino population being the majority by 2050, but few people have any idea how that’s going to play out or what it will look like. If you’d like to see a glimpse of tomorrow’s America, you’ll want to pay attention to places like Los Angeles or Austin, Texas. Or, better yet, just take a look around your neighborhood. It’s very likely it looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago.

           

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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