In a Reversal, More Blacks Moving Back to South

Hope Yen, Comcast News, February 16, 2011

The Great Migration, the 60-year escape from segregation and racism that brought American blacks to the North, has reversed course. Better jobs and quality of life in the South are beckoning, as is the lure of something more intangible–a sense of home.

“It’s no coincidence that the shift is happening as we encounter economic turmoil that is being felt disproportionately among blacks, such as mortgage foreclosures, loss of jobs and economic devastation in major Northern hubs,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. “With major changes and less racial devastation in the South, people are finding their way back.”

The nation’s black population grew by roughly 1.7 million over the last decade. About 75 percent of that growth occurred in the South–primarily metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Charlotte, N.C. That’s up from 65 percent in the 1990s, according to the latest census estimates. The gains came primarily at the expense of Northern metro areas such as New York and Chicago, which posted their first declines in black population since at least 1980.

Illinois had its first decline in the black population in the state’s history, with the number of African-Americans decreasing by 1.3 percent since 2000, according to official 2010 census figures released Tuesday.

In all, about 57 percent of U.S. blacks now live in the South, a jump from the 53 percent share in the 1970s, according to an analysis of census data by William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution{snip}

The findings, based on 2009 data, are expected to be highlighted in official 2010 results that show changes in non-Hispanic black populations in states such as Texas, New York, Georgia and Florida. Illinois’ official 2010 data was released Tuesday. The recent census figures for blacks refer to non-Hispanic blacks, which the Census Bureau began calculating separately in 1980.

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Broken down by state, Georgia was tops in the total number of African-Americans, edging out New York state. It was followed by Texas, Florida and California. California in recent decades has seen its black population slip or remain largely unchanged.

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Frey noted that the continued Southern migration of blacks, who tend to vote Democratic, could have political implications as they flow into mostly Republican-leaning states. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama was able to win in traditionally GOP-leaning states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida after a jump in black voter turnout.

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