According to a report from the Brookings Institute, American cities in which blacks constitute a majority of the population—what they call “black-majority cities”—are on the rise. They include the core cities of metropolitan areas like Detroit, Baltimore, and Memphis as well as smaller suburban municipalities like East Cleveland, Ohio,Wilkinsburg, Pa., and Ferguson, Mo. Black-majority cities (which include cities, towns, and other census-designated places) numbered 460 at the 1970 census, and 1,148 by the 2010 census. And, as of the latest census estimates (2017), there are now 1,262 black-majority cities, an increase of more than 100 such cities during this decade alone.
Black-majority cities are rising amid a national conversation surrounding whether they can improve and develop while retaining their black majority. With these places often beset by white flight and home devaluation, which totals $156 billion in losses nationally, planners and sociologists use ominous words like “gentrification,” “merger,” “annexation,” “bankruptcy,” and “de-annexation” to convey a positive strategy for renewal and growth in black-majority cities.
Yet black-majority cities have assets worth building upon, investing in, and fighting for. Black-majority neighborhoods hold $609 billion in owner-occupied housing assets and are home to approximately 10,000 public schools and over 3 million businesses, according to a recent Brookings-Gallup analysis on home values. But none of these assets are greater than the people and culture within black-majority cities. Black-majority cities matter like the black lives in them. The fight for leaders to retain autonomy and sovereignty—while demanding respect—reflects their recognition of the value in black-majority cities.
HOW DID THE NEW BLACK-MAJORITY CITIES COME ABOUT?
From 1970 to 2010, the total number of census-recognized cities grew by nearly 50 percent. But most of today’s black-majority cities—more than 800 of the 1,148 in 2010—already existed in some form in 1970. Moreover, the black share of the U.S. population rose only slightly over this period, from 11.1 percent in 1970 to 12.6 percent in 2010. Therefore, the emergence of black-majority cities reflects more than anything else a changing demographic landscape between and within cities. A new great migration and intra-metropolitan movement have reshaped urban, suburban, and rural communities, facilitating the rise of today’s black-majority cities.
An existing city’s transition to a black-majority can occur as both black and non-black populations either increase or decrease. To better understand the demographic dynamics giving rise to black-majority cities, Figure 1 below indicates where these cities fall within a typology based on the direction in which total black and non-black populations have trended. Each dot represents an individual black city. We apply this typology to all U.S. cities in which population figures exist for each decennial census from 1970 to 2010, and the median total population of those figures exceeds 2,500. However, only the black-majority cities (as of 2010) are shown in Figure 1. [report & graphs are [HERE]
Cities in the Boomtowns quadrant gained both black and non-black population from 1970 to 2010.
Cities in the White Flight quadrant gained black population, but experienced a decrease in non-black (largely white) population.
Cities in the Suburbanized quadrant lost both black and non-black population.
Cities in the Gentrified quadrant lost black population, but gained non-black population. [MORE]