Census: Black Affluent Migration Widens Income Gap

Experts say that the shift in population will change race relations in the south and elsewhere.

Posted: 12/08/2011 09:09 AM EST
black affluent migration widens income gap

New census data shows that higher earning African-Americans are increasingly moving out of inner city neighborhoods, causing a widening in the wealth gap between whites and inner city Blacks that may have a future effect on race relations.

Last year recorded the largest gap between Black and white income in the inner city since the 1990s with whites earning income nearly 1.7 times higher than that of Blacks. The cities that showed the starkest contrast in income were Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

The data, which is part of the American Community Survey, also showed that an increasing number of Blacks are earning less. Black families who were already earning less than $15,000 rose in number from 20 percent to 26 percent over the past decade, while those making $200,000 or more remained at a stable 1.1 percent since 2000.

However, as African-Americans who have managed to avoid the past decade's decreases in income leave northern urban areas to head south, experts say that the influx of affluent Blacks will present a new race dynamic.


"Reverse migration is changing the South and its race relations," said Roderick Harrison, a Howard University sociologist and former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, according to Associated Press.


Harrison believes that a rising Black middle class will fuel the belief among some Black conservatives that disadvantaged Blacks suffer because of their character, rather than the color of their skin.


Also, other experts predict that the shift in population will have an impact on political and civil rights strategy — an issue that the NAACP is currently grappling with in its efforts to protect Black voters from changes in laws that may disproportionately affect those living in places with recent swells of African-Americans.


"The Democratic party will surely gain consistent support from these new Black suburbanites, but the active support for traditional black issues like civil rights may take a back seat," Brookings Institution demographer William Frey told AP.


However large the shifts, the largest chunk of the Black population still remain in urban cities and small towns. Just 19 percent of Blacks lived in suburban counties with growing and higher-than-average income, while 45 percent live in urban locales where black incomes fell relative to whites.

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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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