2010 Census showcases America's great racial seesaw
According to the 2010 Census, the South is now home to 57 percent of the US black population, the most since 1960. The return migration is linked to jobs and living costs, but also to an attachment to the region.
The final 2010 Census tally shows a country in rapid flux, including the ongoing and dramatic return of America's black population to the South. The former Confederate states now hold 57 percent of the black population, up from 55 percent 10 years before and 53 percent in 1990 and the highest percentage since 1960.Skip to next paragraph
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From city to suburb, from North to South, the story of "black flight" in America is both complex and common sense. It is imbued with racial attitudes and regional affections, and hard-pegged to issues like geographical and cultural affinity, job opportunity, living costs, and hopes for the future.
African-Americans' share of population growth in the South, Census 2010 says, was the highest since 1910, when about 90 percent of blacks lived in the South. Many blacks abandoned long-held strongholds in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The dramatic trend adds another wrinkle to the demographic forces that are rapidly shifting regional influence and citizen attitudes, all while pushing the population center of the country south. The South, as a region, saw the fastest overall population growth – 14 percent – since 2000.
IN PICTURES: Race in America
"The flow of blacks up out of the South into northern cities is a big part of the history of the early 20th century; white flight out of the city and to the suburbs is a post-World War II story; and now we've got this more complicated phenomenon where you're seeing an outward flow of blacks and return migration into the South," says Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
The Census shows that a huge chunk of new black migrants into the South are younger Americans. Some 40 percent of those moving into the South were under 40. The five US counties with the largest black populations – including Los Angeles and Philadelphia – all saw blacks leaving those areas, often to tread toward Dixie.
"Southern blacks always had a deep connection with geographic place, and I think a lot of them, if they weren't getting lynched in the South, wouldn't have left," says Jason Sokol, author of "There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights."