Diversity Rises In Suburbs, Study Says

Haya El Nasser, USA Today, August 4, 2006

Suburban counties, once the bastion of white America, are becoming multiethnic tapestries, and white populations are inching up in some urban areas after big losses in the 1990s, according to new Census estimates out Friday.

“Suburbs and especially fast-growing outer suburbs are not just attracting whites anymore,” says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution, a think tank. “All minority groups are coming. They’re a magnet for blacks as well as Hispanics and Asians.”

The changes are dramatic in the South. About 74% of the growth in the U.S. black population happened there from 2000 to 2005. The region also generated about 71% of the national growth in whites, 42% of the Hispanic growth and 27% of the Asian growth.

“Things are becoming much more multicultural in areas that weren’t before,” says Frey, who analyzed county population estimates for July 1, 2005. “The South’s growth is probably more balanced than other regions in racial and ethnic contributions.”

Atlanta suburbs in counties such as Gwinnett, Clayton and Cobb had some of the largest gains among blacks, more evidence that the return black migration to the South that began in the 1990s continues.

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Some cities and close-in suburbs that lost whites throughout the 1990s gained or at least stemmed their losses. In New York City, Manhattan lost 18,000 non-Hispanic whites in the 1990s but gained 51,000 from 2000 to 2005. Queens lost 175,000 whites in the ‘90s but has lost less than a third of that so far this decade. Fast-gentrifying Brooklyn lost 43,000 whites in the ‘90s but has added more than 5,000 since 2000.

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A study earlier this year by CEOs for Cities, a Chicago-based network of urban leaders, found that adults ages 25 to 34 are 30% more likely to live within 3 miles of central business districts.

“It’s part of the continuing story of the comeback of cities,” says Carol Coletta, president of the group. “Diversification is taking place, and that’s generally good news for everyone. When poor people are isolated or racial minorities are isolated, it’s not good for the economy.”

Other trends:

—Almost half of the growth among whites took place in small metropolitan areas. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians gravitated more toward large metropolitan areas.

—More than a third of Asian growth took place in large metro areas in the West.

—Hispanics account for 71% of the Northeast’s population gains this decade.

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