The Danger of Fleeing to the Suburbs

With so many African-Americans leaving behind big cities, there’s a chance old Black neighborhoods could fall into utter disrepair and abandonment.

When the census data started rolling in a few months ago, Americans everywhere got a clearer picture of what the nation looks like than they’d had in years. The boom in the Latino population was huge, causing all other groups to look smaller by comparison. In fact, if the Latino growth continues at the rate it’s been, Latinos will be the most prevalent ethnic group in America by 2050. In major urban areas, African-Americans left in droves between 2000 and 2010, heading toward both the Southern United States and suburbs sprinkled around the country. In Chicago alone, the Black population decreased by 17 percent from what it was in 2000.


With all these changes in populations accounted for, it’s now time to theorize what comes next. What are the consequences of all the country’s shakeups, and what will America look like in another 10 years? A lot of questions have yet to be answered, but, if you’re in a major urban area, the Black exodus looks like it will be cause for concern.


The problem with the changing demographics of urban areas is that many of the African-Americans fleeing places like Chicago and Detroit are wealthier and more educated than the ones staying behind. That means that Blacks with more money are taking that cash to less diverse suburbs, and buying homes in white communities. The Black communities left behind in the cities are then more shutoff from the world of money and political power, meaning whole Black neighborhoods have less of a chance of being revitalized.


Roderick Harrison, who was the former chief for the racial statistics department at the Census Bureau, said the dangers of a Black exodus to cities are numerous. “Combined with the mortgage foreclosure crisis, you're creating a lot of vacant units. Abandoned housing is a breeding ground for crime and further deterioration and decay," he told USA Today. And without the wealthy African-Americans who are heading to suburbia, Harrison says "you can trigger a downward spiral where you're losing tax base and the ability to repair infrastructure.”


More power to anyone who leaves cities—which can be expensive and difficult—for a better life someplace else, especially if you’ve got family to consider. But if you’re at all considering the city vs. the suburbs, this census data should be enough to give you pause. Places like Harlem were once rich cultural icons. If everyone forgets that, and instead heads to Westchester and the like, we’re bound to forget some of the things that make African-American culture so great.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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