America’s Racist Urban Areas
by Randal O’Toole, Antiplanner, September 26, 2018
John Oliver recently had an article saying that Boston was one of the most racist cities in America. But, if that’s true, why are so many blacks moving there? According to the American Community Survey, the city of Boston’s black population grew by 26 percent in the last 11 years, and black numbers are growing faster than the city’s overall population.
In 2015, the Antiplanner argued that the amount of racism in an area can be inferred by whether minorities are moving into or away from that area. This means regions can be racist if they adopt policies that have the effect of driving minorities away even if that wasn’t the main intention of those policies. At that time, the Antiplanner found that San Francisco-Oakland was the nation’s most-racist urban area as its overall population grew by nearly 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, but its black population shrank by 14 percent, a bigger gap than any other urban area.
The black population of San Francisco-Oakland continued to decline through 2016, but enjoyed a small reversal in 2017, as the region’s black population grew by about 3,100 or 1.1 percent. Black numbers are still declining in Los Angeles, which saw a 7 percent decline since 2006 and a 1 percent decline between 2016 and 2017.
Among major urban areas, blacks are fleeing Chicago in the greatest numbers. The region lost more than 125,000 blacks since 2006 and more than a thousand between 2016 and 2017. Most of these are departing the city of Chicago itself, which lost more than 161,000 blacks since 2006, though the number recovered slightly in 2017. Cook County lost nearly 153,000 since 2006, and 4,000 between 2016 and 2017. Suburban counties such as Lake, DuPage, and Will all gained black numbers, but Illinois as a whole lost nearly 80,000 blacks since 2006, though it gained about 5,000 between 2016 and 2017.
If I had to guess, I’d say the crime (762 murders in 2016) and underlying economic problems are a major reason for the black exodus. The fact (as shown in files posted here last week) that Chicago’s median housing prices were four times median family incomes in 2016 doesn’t help.
At the same time, Chicago’s overall population isn’t doing very well either, suggesting racist policies are less of an issue than other economic problems. Since 1950, the city has lost 25 percent of its numbers, and the population declined by 45,000 between 2006 and 2016. It grew by about 11,500 in 2017.
The second-biggest decline in black numbers is Detroit, which lost almost 161,000 blacks since 2006, though it gained a few hundred back between 2016 and 2017. Detroit’s economic problems are even more severe than Chicago’s, the city having lost well over 60 percent of its total population since 1950 (which explains why so many homes are vacant). In both Chicago and Detroit, the black decline is only a little faster than the overall decline.
Chicago and Detroit notwithstanding, Los Angeles takes the crown as the most racist major urban area in 2017. Not only is its black population declining even as its overall population is growing, the difference between the change in black and overall populations between 2016 and 2017 is greater than any of the other top 50 urban areas that are also losing black numbers.
Outside of the top 50, a case can be made that Honolulu, the nation’s 52nd largest urban area, is even more racist than Los Angeles. As defined by the Census Bureau, the Honolulu urban area (which includes a portion of Oahu) lost 12 percent of its blacks between 2016 and 2017, while the entire island of Oahu lost nearly 10 percent.
To make matters worse, the population of native Hawaiians declined nearly 12 percent in the Honolulu urban area and 2.5 percent in the island as a whole. Here, the blame can be placed squarely on high housing prices, which in 2016 were seven times greater than median family incomes. The housing crisis is so bad that the total population of Oahu is declining, though not nearly as fast as the population of blacks or native Hawaiians.
For those who are interested, I’ve posted a spreadsheet showing, for the nation, states, and major counties, cities, and urban areas, the total and black populations for 2006, 2010, 2016, and 2017. For those geographic areas where black populations declined, column K shows the decline between 2006 and 2017 while L shows the decline between 2016 and 2017. Column M shows the difference between black and total population growth rates from 2006 to 2017: negative numbers indicate black populations aren’t growing as fast as overall. Column N is the same from 2016 to 2017.
For Hawaii only, I’ve posted a file showing the total population and population of native Hawaiians by county for 2007, 2010, 2016, and 2017. Column K shows the change in population of native Hawaiians between 2016 and 2017 while column L shows the total population change between 2016 and 2017. There are also rows for “urban Honolulu CDP” (census-defined place) and “urban Honolulu urbanized area.” The 2016 and 2017 numbers for these areas are valid, but the Census Bureau’s definition of those areas may have been very different in 2007, so the change in populations since then should be treated with caution.