February 18, 2008


Straight outta Compton: You have heard of white flight. Now consider black flight (The Economist, 2/14/08)

Victorville's gain is Los Angeles' loss. Since 1990 the city's black population has dropped by a quarter, from 488,000 to 364,000, even as the overall number of residents rose. The exodus is most noticeable in areas where blacks were once concentrated, such as Compton and Crenshaw. The population of the 35th congressional district, over which the old-fashioned race warrior Maxine Waters holds sway, is now less than one-third black. “It's becoming hard to find black neighbourhoods,” says Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California.

It is not easy to find them in Victorville, either. The city has black apartment buildings and the odd black street but no black districts. Nor do the other cities to which blacks are moving. So far, at least, southern California's ghettos seem to be disintegrating, not relocating. Price alone seems to determine where the new arrivals settle. “If you've got the money, you can move wherever you want,” says Eloise Gibson, a retired teacher in Victorville.

A similar drift is evident in northern California, where blacks are leaving the Bay Area for inland spots such as Stockton and Sacramento. Across America blacks are leaving inner-city areas. William Frey, a geographer at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, calculates that the black population of suburban counties increased by a startling 26.5% between 2000 and 2006. They seem to be moving farther out of the city, and faster, in southern California than anywhere else.

A big reason is immigration. New arrivals from Latin America and Asia have pushed up rents in the metropolis. Until recently they pushed up house prices, too, benefiting the roughly 40% of black householders in south-central Los Angeles who own property. They could afford to move on. Immigrants have also blurred racial lines, producing a kind of confused tolerance. Boundaries that might be stark if there were only two races are a lot harder to police when there are more, especially since the groups are gradually blending.

Most of all, Mr Myers says, high house-prices have forced different groups together. In southern California people will happily trade ethnic homogeneity for an extra bedroom. It helps that most of the places blacks are moving are fast-growing, with little sense of history. Victorville has no traditionally white areas because it has no traditional areas of any kind.

Black churches are the clearest sign of Victorville's changing demography.

Is losing your ghettos really a loss?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2008 8:33 AM

Kid Rock?

Posted by: Bruno at February 18, 2008 9:08 AM

Losing your ghettos is only a loss for race warrior politicians.

Posted by: erp at February 18, 2008 10:08 AM

But if blacks aren't conveniently located in ghettos, how will the democrat city machines round them up on election day to herd them to the polls and punch the straight dem ticket?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 18, 2008 10:21 AM

This also provides a rather easy explanation for the current phenomena involving "repopulation" of New Orleans. The city isn't nearly as black as it was pre-Katrina, and there've been plenty of articles stating that blacks have merely been relocating to places like Lafayette and Shreveport.

Posted by: Brad S at February 18, 2008 11:15 AM

Jim in Chicago - I'd add, 'If you don't have any 'bangers in the 'hood, how will the upper middle class white kids know what's hip?'

Take any of a thousand articles bemoaning the loss of 'native culture', change the place names, and you'll have reproduced this.

Posted by: Chris B at February 18, 2008 12:52 PM

Jim in Chicago -
They'll just use new tricks like encourage "homeless" people to fill the city, bribe them into applying for mail in ballots using a public building for a home address, then fill out those ballots for them. At least that's the Seattle way.

Posted by: Patrick H at February 18, 2008 3:58 PM