Whites Fleeing Back to Cities



In a historic demographic shift, whites are no longer fleeing cities for the suburbs, but instead are moving back to urban areas in growing numbers, the Associated Press reports, citing a new study from the Brookings Institution that analyzed Census Data from 2000 to 2008. The study also reveals that minorities are now more likely to leave cities and move to the suburbs, as whites return in search of jobs, urban living, and shorter commutes. The growing trend is reversing decades of behavior in which whites fled to the suburbs, looking for safer neighborhoods and better schools.

“A new image of urban America is in the making,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings who co-wrote the report. "What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into 'bright flight' to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation, and a new city ambiance as an attraction."

The study revealed that Washington, DC, and Atlanta posted the biggest increases in the percentage of whites in their cities since 2000. Each is up 5 percentage points to 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other cities to experience white gains were New York, San Francisco, Boston, and cities in another seven of the nation's 100 largest metro areas. In the study, San Francisco included Oakland and Fremont. “A new metro map is emerging in the U.S. that challenges conventional thinking about where we live and work,” said Alan Berube, research director with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington.

However, the federal government continues to short-change cities in favor of suburbs and rural farm areas, the Chron reports in yesterday’s Insight section. Harry Moroz, a research associate at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and co-author of the study, “No Economic Recovery Without Cities: The Urgency of a New Federal Urban Policy,” noted that last year’s federal stimulus package “assigned cities control over less than 1 percent of funds and disregarded 19,000 shovel-ready infrastructure projects proposed by the nation's mayors.” As a result, Moroz argued, the stimulus failed to maximize job creation, and instead slowed economic recovery nationwide.