Must Growing Cities Turn White?

A blog about business and economics.
June 25 2012 4:56 PM

It's Very Hard for American Cities To Add People Without Turning White

Natalie Hopkinson's "Farewell to Chocolate City" article about the decline of Washington, D.C.'s African-American majority was a great read, but it got me thinking about the fundamental math of racial change.

The basic issues driving the decreasing blackness of Washington, D.C., are that the population is growing and most people in the United States are not black. Because most Americans aren't black, if a bunch of "people" go move somewhere that currently has a black majority, the tendency will be for the influx to dilute the existing black population. Thinking about myself, most of my white friends in D.C. aren't from here. But most of my black friends in D.C. aren't from here, either—and these black gentrifiers often get left out of the conversation. At the end of the day, however, African Americans are only about 12 percent of the overall American population. So barring a very high level of hard-core racism, if a city with a black majority becomes an appealing place to move, most of the people who move there won't be African-American, and the black character of the city will tend to fade away.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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