An estimated 6 million blacks headed north and west to cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Louis in the early 20th century. But now the tide is reversing, with the African-American population dropping in the latter three over the past six years.
In some cases it’s clear that blacks are leaving for better economic opportunities, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco, high housing costs likely play a role, with black homeownership at about 9 percentage points lower than the major metro average.
As tech workers have driven up home prices to unprecedented levels in the San Francisco area, the African-American population has dropped 6.3% from 2010, while areas whose African-American populations have expanded the most since 2010 are the South and Sun Belt: Las Vegas, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and Phoenix.
Strict land-use and housing regulations in California have been associated with the particularly dire situation, with increases in home prices relative to income of 3.5 times the rest of the nation since 1995. In coastal California, African-Americans face prices from more than two to nine times their annual incomes than non-Hispanic whites. African-American homeownership rates in California are down 17% in the Golden State compared to a decline of 11% for Hispanics and 6% for non-Hispanic whites. Asian homeownership rates have stayed the same.
Blacks, like many other Americans, are likely to continue to move, as consultant Pete Saunders notes, to cities that are both high growth and relatively low cost. In these cities, housing and land use policies generally allow the market to function, resulting in lower home prices and greater housing choice. Business investment and job creation are also strongly backed. Blacks, like others, are moving to these places for opportunity.
In many cases this means a reversal of the Great Migration and a return trip to parts of the country now far more accommodating to black aspirations than those places which once provided the greatest opportunities.