White flight

White flight

"White flight" is a term for the demographic trend in which working and middle-class white people move away from suburbs or urban neighborhoods that are becoming racially desegregated to white suburbs and exurbs. [David J. Armor. [http://books.google.com/books?id=BJuAZpULzAsC&pg=PA177&dq=%22causes+white+flight%22+armor&ei=f0eHSKGjEZOaigHsoaDnAQ&sig=ACfU3U00umALO3lLCIR6zDA2GbLzKG0tAQ#PPA71,M1 "Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law."] Oxford University Press US, 1986.] [ [http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=58&aid=111344 The Best Story of Our Lives] By Bobbi Bowman] [" [http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=3461488 ABC News: Increasing Diversity] "] The phenomenon was first named in the United States, but has occurred in other countries as well. A major contributing factor for the start of this trend in the United States is considered to be the 1954 "Brown v. Board of Education" Supreme Court decision, which began the process of desegregating the country's public schools. [Charles T. Clotfelter. "After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation." Princeton University Press, 2004.] [Diane Ravitch. [http://books.google.com/books?id=iH6jKXSgoRkC&pg=PA177&vq=white+flight&dq=%22School+desegregation+and+White+Flight.%22&source=gbs_search_r&cad=1_1&sig=ACfU3U1FzJ9tPXFyq9BsrJd2aYER_3UoUQ#PPA179,M1 "The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980"] . Basic Books, 1984.] Some scholars have noted the impact of redlining, mortgage discrimination, and racially restrictive covenants on white flight: these factors denied or increased the cost of services (such as banking and insurance) to residents in minority suburbs and minority inner-city neighborhoods. [" [http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i8043.html White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism] " by Kevin M. Kruse. ISBN 9780691133867] [" [http://books.google.com/books?id=TWo8OFJpFtAC How East New York Became a Ghetto] " by Walter Thabit. ISBN 0814782671. Page 42.] Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization and decentralization are instances of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism. ["Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California" Laura Pulido Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 90, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 12-40] In some of the largest cities in the United States, the trend started to reverse itself in the 1990s through a process called gentrification.

White flight in the United States

White flight has taken place in nearly every major American city, [" [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/20/AR2006082000629.html Growing diversity of American cities] " By Anushka Asthana, Washington Post. Monday, August 21, 2006] especially since the end of World-War II and the ensuing economic and baby booms. A variety of factors during this period allowed for the explosive growth of suburbs and demographic change in cities, including the creation of high-speed highways and suburban parkways, which greatly reduced the travel time between suburbs and downtowns and bypassed some city neighborhoods."Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States" by Kenneth T. Jackson. ISBN 0195036107]

The effects of the phenomenon have been significant, particularly in built-out cities across the nation (located mostly in the North). Although some cities were affected more than others by the phenomenon, it has been observed in every city and metropolitan area in the United States.


In the years after World War II, many white Americans began to move away from inner cities to newer suburban communities. Major cities had experienced tight housing markets during the war years along with an influx of blacks seeking war work. Economic and social pressure as well as the popularity of the automobile all contributed to white flight. Many whites also left the city because they thought that suburban communities, with their new housing stock and open spaces, were more desirable places to live. Often, due to lower incomes or racial discrimination, blacks were generally unable to follow.

Some practices restricted the ability of non-whites to move from inner-cities to suburbs, even in cases where non-whites may have been able to afford it. This period was marked by a massive suburban expansion available primarily to whites of both wealthy and working class backgrounds facilitated by rising incomes, highway construction, and the availability of federally-guaranteed home mortgages (VA, FHA, HOLC) which made it easier for families to buy new homes — but not rent apartments. [" [http://www.public.asu.edu/~wplotkin/DeedsWeb/fha38.html "Racial" Provisions of FHA Underwriting Manual, 1938] "

Recommended restrictions should include provision for:prohibition of the occupancy of properties except by the race for which they are intended …Schools should be appropriate to the needs of the new community and they should not be attended in large numbers by inharmonious racial groups. Federal Housing Administration, Underwriting Manual: Underwriting and Valuation Procedure Under Title II of the National Housing Act With Revisions to February, 1938 (Washington, D.C.), Part II, Section 9, Rating of Location.
] White flight was made easier by highways built to carry suburbanites to work in cities where the jobs remained (the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act and its successors). ["Locational Dimensions of Urban Highway Impact: An Empirical Analysis" James O. Wheeler Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1976), pp. 67-78] The creation of these highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham's interstate highway system attempted to maintain the racial boundaries that had been established by the city's 1926 racial zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods and is associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation. ["From Racial Zoning to Community Empowerment: The Interstate Highway System and the African American Community in Birmingham, Alabama" Charles E. Connerly Journal of Planning Education and Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, 99-114 (2002)]


Another important aspect of this migration was the phenomenon of "blockbusting". Real estate agents would facilitate the sale of a house in a white neighborhood to a black family by subterfuge, often buying the house themselves, or using a white proxy and reselling, perhaps at a reduced price, to the black family. A panic, fanned by the real estate agents and the media, would then ensue among some white homeowners, who feared that their property values would drop — which they did as soon as they began selling in large numbers, generating large commissions for the agents. The real estate agents would then sell at higher prices to the incoming black families, reaping the profits of the price difference as well as the sales commissions. It was not uncommon for the racial makeup of a neighborhood to be completely changed in the space of a few years by this process. [" [http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/147.html Blockbusting] " - Encyclopedia of Chicago History]

Urban decay

Urban decay is a process by which a city, or a part of a city, falls into a state of disrepair. It may be accelerated by white flight away from the area. It is characterized by depopulation, property abandonment, high unemployment, fragmented families, political disenfranchisement, crime, and desolate and unfriendly urban landscapes. Urban decay was associated with Western cities, especially North America and parts of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. During this time period major changes in global economies, transportation, and government policies created conditions that fostered urban decay. [" [http://books.google.com/books?id=uf0vS1A-0dkC Urban Sores: On the Interaction Between Segregation, Urban Decay, and Deprived Neighbourhoods] " By Hans Skifter Andersen. ISBN 0754633055. 2003.] Many North American cities have experienced an outflux of population to city suburbs or exurbs, as in the case of white flight." [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0195049837 Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States] " by Professor Kenneth T Jackson (1987)]

Governmental aspects of white flight

Due to the nature of American local governmental structure, white flight enabled people who moved into the suburbs to create new municipalities outside the jurisdiction of the original city, without any legacy costs of maintaining existing infrastructure. However, this was balanced by the need to enhance the suburban infrastructure to support the larger immigrant population. For example, new schools, roads, water and sewer lines, and firehouses had to be built.

The federal government contributed to the early decay of inner city neighborhoods and white flight by withholding mortgage capital and making it difficult for these neighborhoods to attract and retain families able to purchase homes. By manipulating market incentives, the federal government drew middle-class whites to the suburbs."When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor" By William Julius Wilson. 1996. ISBN 0679724176]

By the enactment of restrictive zoning, these new entities could ensure that few poor (or in some cases middle-class) emigrants could afford to move into their enclaves. Such municipalities were incorporated by the hundreds on the peripheries of cities. The details varied according to state statutes and local politics. Milwaukee, for example, was able to annex parts of surrounding towns, including the former Town of Granville and thus expand to a greater extent than many landlocked cities (then-Mayor Frank P. Zeidler inveighed against the destructive effect of the "Iron Ring" of new municipalities incorporated in the post-World War II decade [" [http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=459264 Mayor served 'the public welfare': Longtime city icon known for integrity, energy, principles] " By Alan J. Borsuk. Journal Sentinel. July 8, 2006] ). At the same time, many semi-rural areas such as Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, and Franklin incorporated to escape annexation during this era, after state laws were changed to allow such incorporation by non-urban regions near Milwaukee which did not fit the traditional minimum standards for incorporation. [Joel Rast, "Governing the Regimeless City: The Frank Zeidler Administration in Milwaukee, 1948–1960", "Urban Affairs Review", Vol. 42, No. 1, 81-112 (2006)] [Donald J. Curran, "Infra-Metropolitan Competition", "Land Economics", Vol. 40, No. 1 (Feb., 1964), pp. 94-99]

chools and busing

Desegregation of schools was often the catalyst for white flight. White flight has also had an impact on education. The landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision "Brown v. Board of Education" ordered the desegregation of schools. American cities witnessed growing disparities in the quality of education. The Supreme Court subsequently mandated in the 1971 decision of "Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education" the institution of busing of black students to mainly formerly all-white schools in the suburbs, and vice versa. Beginning in the mid-1970s, some minority students (especially blacks) were transported miles from poorer core cities to newer affluent suburbs. As Justice William Douglas observed in his dissent in "Milliken v. Bradley" (1974), "The inner core of Detroit is now rather solidly black; and the blacks, we know, in many instances are likely to be poorer…" A similar 1977 Federal decision, "Penick v The Columbus Board of Education," accelerated white flight from Columbus, Ohio to its suburbs. According to sociologist Cardell K. Jacobson, opposition to integration was strongest among people who did not themselves have children in public schools, and in particular among those who already had children in parochial schools. [Jacobson, Cardell K., Desegregation Rulings and Public Attitude Changes: White Resistance or Resignation?, "American Journal of Sociology", v. 84 n. 3, pp. 698-705.] [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/09/BAIFS1GE4.DTL C.W. Nevius: Racism alive and well in S.F. schools - here's proof] ]

Busing and desegregation orders in education had also led to a further, non-geographical white flight: out of the public school systems subject to desegregation orders, and into private schools. For example, in 1970, when a federal court ordered desegregation of the public schools of the Pasadena Unified School District (in Pasadena, California), the proportion of white students in those schools reflected the proportion of whites in the community, 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively. After desegregation began, a large number of whites in the upper and middle classes could afford private schooling and so pulled their children from mixed public schools. As a result, by 2004 Pasadena was home to sixty-three private schools, which educated one-third of all school-aged children in the city, and the proportion of white students in the public schools had fallen to 16 percent. The superintendent of Pasadena USD characterized them as being to whites "like the bogey-man" [ [http://www.penfamilies.org/www/pen/Files/LA%20Daily%20Journal%20Article%20on%20Pasadena%20School%20Reform.doc Tackling Local Resistance to Public Schools] By John Ryan] and mounted policy changes and a publicity drive to induce affluent whites to put their children back into the public schools.

White flight frequently had the effect of dramatically altering the racial demographics of public school systems in relatively short periods of time. For example, Baltimore's Clifton Park Junior High School had 2,023 whites and 34 blacks just after desegregation; 10 years later, it had 2,037 blacks and 12 whites. Garrison Junior High School in Northwest Baltimore went from 2,504 whites and 12 blacks to 297 whites and 1,263 blacks in the same period. [ [http://www.bcps.k12.md.us/About/History/From_the_Oldorder1.asp Reasons and Results 1957-1997 ] ]

White flight in recent decades

Some parts of the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas with emerging Latin American and Asian populations are experiencing a new phenomenon where "white flight" neighborhoods that became mostly black in population are now experiencing a black flight by blacks as new immigrants move in. [ [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2036580,00.html Diversity is our strength] ] [ [http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/stateof/hutchinson105 Rainbow Coalition] ]

1967's 12th Street Riot in Detroit contributed to white flight in that city. Detroit is now over 80% black; a majority of its neighboring suburbs – such as Livonia, Dearborn, and Warren – are predominantly white. [ [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/08/13/national/main306205.shtml Most Racially Uniform Cities, - CBS News ] ]

White flight in California

California is the most diverse U.S. state in terms of racial and ethnic makeup, and in the 2000 U.S. census non-Hispanic whites became a minority for the first time in state history (less than 50 percent of the population). African-Americans aren't the sole minority in the state, in which 8 percent of the people are black. Hispanics form the largest group in California.

White flight in Southern California

The forces and groups involved in white flight in Southern California are distinct from those in other areas due to the region's demography and history. Many whites once lived in urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles before departing the city in large numbers after the 1965 Watts Riots. This trend actually began before the riots but it accelerated in their wake. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots produced a similar reaction across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, but included a massive influx of lower-income African-Americans leaving the city.

The most common minority group in California and the western U.S. are Latinos. In the late 20th century, non-Hispanic whites increasingly moved out of the central part of the Los Angeles metro area, while the Latino population increased.

In addition, during the 1990s and 2000s, many blacks have continued to move out of historically African American communities (some which now have Latino majorities) such as Inglewood and Compton, particularly to inland communities such as Fontana, Rialto, Moreno Valley, Palmdale, Orange County, and Ventura County. [Pollard-Terry, Gayle. "Where It's Booming: Watts." "Los Angeles Times", October 16, 2005. Page E1.] (See black flight.)

In San Diego, the pattern of white flight from the city to neighboring suburbs to the east and north since the 1950s has reversed in the 1990s though the gentrification of parts of downtown and coastal sections of the city. On the other hand, the once predominantly Black East Side and mainly Hispanic South Side are becoming more predominantly white due to real estate buyouts of previous owners' homes. The Southern San Diego area (i.e., Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach along with the border entry San Ysidro) has become a popular location for white home buyers, though blacks, and Latinos, Asians outnumbered whites in these cities in the late 20th century. Nevertheless, San Diego has the lowest Hispanic population of any city in the United States on the United States–Mexico border.Fact|date=August 2008

White flight in Northern California

Another form of white flight is also taking place in many parts of Northern California, such as the western suburbs of San Jose, California. White flight, though taking place at a slower pace, is also affecting high-income upper-class neighborhoods that are becoming increasingly Asian American. [ [http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB113236377590902105-lMyQjAxMDE1MzEyOTMxNjkzWj.html The New White Flight - WSJ.com ] ] In this case, however, the white flight does not result in socio-economic problems for the affected communities. The influx of non-whites whose socio-economic status is at least as high (if not higher) than that of previous white residents compensates for the loss in white population. This trend tends to affect upscale enclaves, such as Cupertino, Saratoga, or, in Southern California, San Marino. These cities are expected to have income grow significantly and become more upper-class than they are today.Fact|date=December 2007

San Francisco and nearby Oakland are the only two U.S. major cities where whites grew more in percentage, despite Oakland has the largest percentage of African-Americans (over 30 percent, down from 50% in the 1980 census) in the western U.S. (west of Texas). After 60 years of a large black American percentage, Oakland is again fashionable for wealthy whites, while many lower-middle class blacks relocated out of Oakland to nearby areas (Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Solano and Stanislaus counties) are popular destinations for African-American middle class home buyers in the last 20 years to boost the counties' black percentages.

San Francisco's formerly all-black and previously ethnic sections have transformed into reclaimed white areas; their homes were purchased by upper-income professional white home buyers during the region's real estate booms in the 1990s and 2000s. The majority of San Francisco bay area's Asians live in San Mateo County instead of the city, while more head to the San Jose/Santa Clara and east Bay areas, and even to the Sonoma and Napa Valley areas.

Sacramento, the state capital with a more social conservative flavor than the notably social liberal San Francisco area, appears to be more racially diverse with higher percentages of black Americans (20%) and Latinos (30-40%) in their city than widely perceived "diverse" San Francisco, now over 43 percent white versus Sacramento being 38 percent. Also some demographers placed Latinos (of any race, including "white") and some Asian-Americans identified themselves to further assimilated as "white", therefore the "white flight" issue of northern California is questionable.

Outside the United States

outh Africa

The phenomenon is also found in South African cities, most notably Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, which saw a mass influx of Black African people into the inner cities during the final years of apartheid, and from which white South Africans fled in great numbers to the suburbs (or out of the country altogether).Fact|date=December 2007

New Zealand

In some areas of New Zealand, there has been a gradual process of white flight, in response to mass urbanisation of Māori and arrivals of Pacific Islander guest workers between the 1950s and 1970s. In Auckland the process has largely been in reverse since the 1980s, with European New Zealanders moving to previously Māori and Pacific Islander neighbourhoods such as Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Kingsland. Today, inner city neighbourhoods and the CBD are amongst the most sought after and expensive realty in Auckland and indeed in NZ. Similar gentrification trends have occurred in Wellington inner city suburbs such as Thorndon, Newtown, and Aro Valley.Fact|date=July 2008

United Kingdom

The question of whether 'white flight' and racial segregation is occurring in the United Kingdom has been open to debate. Trevor Phillips, head of the UK Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, and Dr Mike Poulsen, an Australian-based academic, have claimed that whites and ethnic minorities are becoming more segregated; however, a number of British researchers including Prof Ceri Peach, Prof Danny Dorling and Dr Ludi Simpson have argued that racial segregation is either stable or declining. [ Dominic Casciani, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5304276.stm So who's right over segregation?] , BBC News Magazine, 4 September 2006, accessed 21 September 2006]

Demographic trends show evidence of simultaneous ethnic minority dispersal and segregation: in the 1980s and 1990s, minority groups grew rapidly (in percentage terms) in many suburban neighbourhoods and smaller towns that were formerly almost devoid of non-whites, but minorities also grew strongly (in numerical terms) in the inner urban districts of first immigrant settlement. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/02/10/nmig10.xml Whites leaving cities] ] Simultaneously, white populations in many of these urban centres declined (over 600,000 between 1997 and 2007 in London alone), consistent with a long-term trend of counter urbanisation. [http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/CBCB/census2_part1.pdf]

While many skilled working class/lower middle class whites have moved out of the less desirable areas of London to suburban communities in Essex, Kent and Surrey, this has been tempered, especially in Central London, by rapid gentrification. However, in some areas such as Newham and Brent, demographics have been skewed to the extent that white people are in a minority – a relatively new phenomenon in urban Britain. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/03/census_2001/html/ethnicity.stm BBC NEWS | CENSUS 2001 ] ]

Industrial towns and cities with large south Asian populations such as Oldham and Rochdale in Greater Manchester, Nelson, Blackburn and Burnley in Lancashire, Bradford, Dewsbury and Keighley in West Yorkshire, Slough in Berkshire, and Leicester have also experienced significant ethnic change. Non-white minorities in these areas have experienced strong demographic growth (a result of young age structure, the high fertility rate of some minority groups, and continued immigration) [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4706862.stm Thousands in UK citizenship queue] ] gradually expanding to new districts adjacent to their areas of first settlement. Meanwhile, white communities have been moving away from these older, less attractive urban centres to suburbs and small towns, although in recent years there have been claims that some cities are experiencing an urban renaissance attracting new residents including (white) students and young professionals. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6150578.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Shaping the UK urban renaissance ] ]


In Australia, comparable trends have taken place around the areas of Australia's greatest immigration inflows, particularly Sydney. In that city, Anglo-Celtic Australians have left the south-western suburbs in response to growing concentrations of Asian immigrants, and have relocated to outer suburban areas, notably Penrith and the northern coastal area of Gosford-Wyong. These growth areas have remained predominantly Anglo-Celtic. [Birrell, Bob, and Seol, Byung-Soo. [http://elecpress.monash.edu.au/pnp/free/pnpv6n3/BirrSeol1.htm 'Sydney's Ethnic Underclass'] , "People and Place", vol. 6, no. 3, September 1998.]

The Netherlands

Since 2004, and particularly after the murder of Theo van Gogh, some middle-class whites are leaving the Netherlands to migrate to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The rise of ethnic violence and crime, unassimilated immigrants from Muslim nations, fears that social order is breaking down, combined with the high population density, have been cited as motives of white emigrants. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/12/11/wneth11.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/12/11/ixworld.html Dutch desert their changing country] ] [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/27/international/europe/27dutch.html?_r=1&ex=1110171600&en=d6582f891be6b650&ei=5070 More Dutch Plan to Emigrate as Muslim Influx Tips Scales] ]


The opposing social trend of more prosperous social groups moving into an inner city area and displacing the existing residents is called gentrification. "See Gentrification#The_role of certain social groups."

ee also

*Ethnic succession theory
*Planned shrinkage
*Residential Segregation
*Urban decay



* Gamm, Gerald (1999). "Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed" Harvard University Press.
* Kruse, Kevin M. (2005), " [http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2005/kruse/1a.htm White Flight: The Strategies, Ideology, and Legacy of Segregationists in Atlanta] " "Southern Spaces."
* Kruse, Kevin M. (2005), "White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism." Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* Lupton, R. and Power, A. (2004) 'Minority Ethnic Groups in Britain'. CASE-Brookings Census Brief No.2, London: LSE.
* Schneider, Jack (2008), " [http://juh.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/34/6/995 Escape from Los Angeles: White Flight from Los Angeles and Its Schools, 1960-1980] "
* Seligman, Amanda I. (2005), "Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side" Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
*Wiese, Andrew. (2006) " [http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2006/wiese/1a.htm African American Suburban Development in Atlanta] " "Southern Spaces."

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