Minority Populations Leaving Large Cities

Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle, March 7, 2006

Minority populations shifted dramatically within the United States between 1990 and 2004 as Latinos and Asians moved away from large metropolitan areas and African Americans moved to the South, according to a study to be released today.

The Diversity Spreads Out report by the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C., shows that although older large cities still house the majority of Latinos and nonwhites in the United States, Latinos, Asians and African Americans increasingly are moving to smaller metropolitan areas that historically have been largely white.

“There is a broader sprinkling of all minorities away from the traditional melting-pot places,” said demographer William Frey, who wrote the report. “Minorities are becoming a part of the growth in fast-growing cities.”

The movement toward inland metropolitan areas, such as Sacramento, Phoenix and Las Vegas, is particularly pronounced among Latinos, Frey said. In 2004, 907 counties across the country were at least 5 percent Latino compared with 538 counties in 1990.

Between 1990 and 2004, the percentage of the nation’s Latinos who lived in New York and Los Angeles dropped from 30 to 23 percent.

“California’s dominance as a destination for immigrants, especially Latinos, is not as great as it once was,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California.

Minorities contributed the majority of population growth in the nation’s 11 fastest-growing metropolitan areas from 2000 to 2004. In the past, nonwhites did not necessarily follow the population shifts of whites, preferring to stay near friends and family and cultural institutions in large cities.

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