Black flight is a term applied to the Human migration of African Americans from predominantly black or mixed inner-city areas in the United States to and newly constructed homes on the outer edges of cities. While more attention has been paid to this since the 1990s, the movement of black people to the suburbs has been underway for some time, with nine million people having migrated from 1960 to 2000. Their goals have been similar to those of the white middle class, whose out-migration was called white flight: newer housing, better schools for their children, and attractive environments.John W. Frazier and Eugene L. Tettey-fio, Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, Global Academic Publishing, 2006, p. 85. From 1990 to 2000, the percentage of African Americans who lived in the suburbs increased to a total of 39 percent, rising 5 percentage points in that decade. Most who moved to the suburbs after World War II were middle class. Shawn A. Ginwright and Antiw Akom, "African American Outmigration Trends: Initial Scan of National and Local Trends in Migration and Research of African Americans" , Public Institute of San Francisco State University, for City of San Francisco, Accessed March 3, 2008
Early years of residential change accelerated in the late 1960s after passage of civil rights legislation ended segregation, and African Americans could exercise more choices in housing and jobs. Since the 1950s, a period of major restructuring of industries and loss of hundreds of thousands of industrial jobs in northeast and Midwest cities began. Since the late 20th century, these events led to reduced density in formerly black neighborhoods in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, which have also had absolute population decreases, losing white population as well. Since the 2000 census, the number and proportion of black population has decreased in several major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, DC. Sonya Rastogi, Tallese D. Johnson, Elizabeth M. Hoeffel, and Malcolm P. Drewery, Jr., "The Black Population: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs", U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, Accessed July 2, 2013
In addition to moving to suburbs, since 1965 African Americans have been returning to the South in a New Great Migration, especially since 1990 to the states of Georgia, Texas, and Maryland, whose economies have expanded. William H. Frey, "The New Great Migration: Black Americans' Return to the South, 1965-2000", The Brookings Institution, May 2004, p. 1-4 , accessed March 19, 2008 In many cases, they are following the movement of jobs to the suburbs and the South. Because more African Americans are attaining college degrees, they are better able to find and obtain better-paying jobs and move to the suburbs. Most African-American migrants leaving the northern regions have gone to the "New South" states, where economies and jobs have grown from knowledge industries, services and technology.
Achieving higher education has contributed to an increase in overall Wealth within the African-American community, with increasing median income. According to a 2007 study, average African-American family income has increased, but the gap with white families has increased slightly. "Income gap between black, white families grows", NBC News
The fact is African Americans desire the same things all Americans want for their families: employment opportunities with well-paying positions that can keep up with -or stay ahead of- the cost of living; the chance to own affordable homes in safe neighborhoods; quality options for educating our children; and the social and cultural amenities that make it all worthwhile. Right now, the South, more than any other region of the country, is living up to that promise.
In 1950 few northern cities yet had majority or near majority percentages of black people, nor did southern ones: Washington, DC was 35 percent African American and Baltimore was 40 percent. From 1950 to 1970, the black population increased dramatically in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Newark, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. By 1960 75 percent of black persons lived in urban environments, while white people had been moving to suburbs in large numbers following WWII. Black flight has altered the hyper-urban density that had resulted from the Second Great Migration to cities (1940–70), with hyper-segregation in inner-city areas, such as in Chicago, St. Louis, and East St. Louis.John W. Frazier and Eugene L. Tettey-fio, Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, Global Academic Publishing, 2006, pp. 74 and 85
Job losses in former industrial cities have often pushed population out, as people migrate to other areas to find new work. In the 1950s and 1960s, numerous black people from Chicago began to move to suburbs south of the city to improve their housing. Industry job losses hit those towns, too, and many people have left the area altogether. "African Americans", Encyclopedia of Chicago. Accessed March 1, 2008. Chicago lost population from 1970 to 1990, with some increases as of the 2000 census, and decreases again from 2000 to 2005.Gibson, Campbell (June 1998). "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990" , U.S. Bureau of the Census - Population Division, accessed March 1, 2008. Since 2000, nearly 55,000 black people have left Chicago, although one million still live in the city.John Ritter, "San Francisco Hopes to Reverse Black Flight", USA Today, accessed April 20, 2011 The migrants caused losses in businesses, churches, and other African-American community institutions. The concentration of poverty and deterioration of inner-city public schools in many cities also contributes to pushing black parents to move their families to suburban areas, with traditionally better funded schools. Detroit and Philadelphia are two other major industrial cities that have suffered dramatic population losses since the mid-20th century due to the loss of industrial jobs.
Reviews of the 2000 census showed that African Americans have also left New York, but continued in-migration of young whites and immigrants has appeared to stabilize the white proportion of residents. Joseph J. Salvo, director of the New York Department of City Planning's population division, noted the diversity within the white population, as older European Americans are replaced by new immigrants, including the many Hispanics who identify as white. Similarly, black out-migration from Boston since 2000 resulted in the city's becoming majority white again by 2006. In 1970 at the peak of African-American expansion in Washington, DC, black people comprised 70% of the capital's population.News Hound, "Major US Cities Rapidly Losing Black Population", Black Society, September 28, 2008, accessed November 18, 2008 The percentage of black population has decreased significantly - to 55.6% in 2007, down nearly 8% since 2000, and much more since the 1970s.
California cities, a destination for black migrants from 1940 to 1970, have changed as well. The state has lost black migrants for the first time in three decades. San Francisco has had the largest decrease in black population, 23 percent from 1990 to 2000, but Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego also have had losses. In Los Angeles, the percentage of population that is black has dropped by half to 9.9% since 1970, a proportion that also reflects recent increased Hispanic and immigration.
The large Inner city area of South Los Angeles offers an example of change caused by ethnic succession, where new immigrants replace former residents who move away or where an older generation is replaced by young people with children. This also often occurs because African Americans have emulated the white flight of their European American counterparts and move to the outer sections of the Greater Los Angeles areas to escape the ever-increasing Hispanic population. In 1985 African Americans made up 72% of the population of the area. By 2006 the black proportion of the population had decreased to just 46%. The Latino population had risen from 21% in 1985 to 51% in 2006, as one population replaced another. From 2004 to 2005, Latino demand for housing caused prices to rise more than 40 percent in Watts and South Central Los Angeles. Pollard-Terry, Gayle. "Where It's Booming: Watts", Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2005. p. E-1.
The extent to which increased economic prosperity among African Americans has led to integration among white people and black people is debatable. Some scholars suggest that the narrowing economic divide is helping the US to become an increasingly "color-blind" society, but others note the de facto segregation in many residential areas and continuing social discrimination.Mary Pattillo-McCoy's Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class (University of Chicago Press, 1999).