A Demographic Shift Underway for Black Americans

The AP explores a movement from bigger cities to smaller ones
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2022 11:04 AM CDT
Biggest Growth in Black Population in Smaller Cities
Brandon Manning, an assistant professor of literature at Texas Christian University, listens to a student during a seminar class in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Brandon Manning and his wife were both born in the South and had been itching to return, but Manning didn't want to go back to his native Atlanta because of the traffic, housing costs, and sprawl. So, when he was offered a job teaching at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, the couple decided to give the smaller city a chance. They weren't alone. The largest African American population growth in pure numbers over the past decade didn't take place in Atlanta or Houston, long identified as hubs of Black life, but rather in less congested cities with lower profiles: Fort Worth; Columbus, Ohio; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Charlotte, NC. Each gained between 32,000 and 40,000 new Black residents from 2010 to 2020, according to 2020 census figures.

Meanwhile, Black residents left the nation's largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, by the tens of thousands, per the AP. The Mannings are part of an emerging pattern of Black migration from larger cities to smaller ones, primarily in the South, according to Sabrina Pendergrass, an assistant professor for African American and African studies at the University of Virginia. After a decadeslong migration by Black people to Atlanta, "there's this feeling that ... it might be tougher to get an economic foothold if you wanted to open a business," Pendergrass said. "In cities like Charlotte, there's not as much competition."

According to the 2020 census, African Americans make up 14% of the US population, 58% of whom live in the South. Those figures could vary slightly, as the Census Bureau reported last week that 3.3% of the Black population was undercounted in the 2020 census, a rate higher than in 2010. Fort Worth, Columbus, Jacksonville, and Charlotte all saw explosive growth—from 15% to 24%—in their overall populations over the past decade. The Black population grew at about the same rate in three of the cities and exceeded it in Fort Worth. For this report, the AP focused on individual cities rather than larger metropolitan areas to get a more nuanced sense of where Black population growth took place. (Read it in full here.)

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