Census Finds Black Exodus From City
By ELIOT BROWN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 9, 2007
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Elected officials and demographers say rising housing costs and changing immigration patterns are contributing to a decline in the city's black population, a trend fed in part by the growing number of families moving to the South.
As the city is seeing a huge influx of other racial and ethnic groups, estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau scheduled for release today show that the number of black residents fell by more than 40,000 between 2000 and 2006. The city's overall population was estimated to have grown by about 200,000, with the number of people identifying as Hispanic and Asian each increasing by more than 90,000.
African-American leaders say that especially for older residents, pastures can be greener outside of the city's boundaries, where the cost of living is significantly lower.
"I just see the U-Haul trucks, and people coming up to me and kissing goodbye," Council Member Letitia James said. "They just indicate to me that their dollar can go farther in the South."
The decline in the black population — a number that includes both African Americans and many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean — occurred in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.
Should the estimates be correct, the trend would represent something of a turnaround from patterns of the previous decade: Between 1990 and 2000, the city's black population grew by more than 25,000.
Council Member Leroy Comrie Jr., who said he attends a moving-South party at least once a month, also pointed to a noticeable decline in the number of young African Americans that are staying or moving into the area, perhaps due to housing costs.
"I'm always talking about the fact that our children are not being able to afford our homes anymore," Mr. Comrie said.
The pattern of out-migration for the New York City black population differs from that of many major cities in the country, according to a demographer at the Brookings Institution, William Frey. Whereas affordability issues are pushing many to move to nearby suburbs in cities such as Chicago, in New York, the movement tends to be much farther, he said.
"What struck me is that the blacks who left New York City weren't going to suburban New Jersey, they were going to Washington, D.C., or Virginia, or some place like that," Mr. Frey said. "For blacks, a lot of it is not just the unaffordability of the city itself, but of the metropolitan area."
The director of the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, John Mollenkopf, said the number of American-born blacks has been falling in the city for decades, but in the past foreign immigration had led to a net increase. "It's my sense that Afro-Caribbean migration to he city has slackened off to a degree in recent years," Mr. Mollenkopf said. "It was really the growth of the Afro-Caribbean population that did mask the slow decline of the African-American population."
The movement to the South by African Americans represents a generational shift, Mr. Mollenkopf said, as many of those moving tend to be older residents that moved to New York City from southern states decades ago.
Among all ethnic and groups, foreign immigration has been a strong, driving factor of population numbers. Of a single racial group, the Census Bureau estimated the Asians to have grown the most, increasing by more than 120,000 between 2000 and 2006.
The white population is estimated to have grown considerably as well, by more than 100,000. The figure includes Hispanics that identify as white — the Census considered Hispanic as an ethnicity, and did not include it in its choices for race. When Hispanics are removed, the city's white population grew by only a few thousand.
For the past three years, the city has successfully challenged the estimates from the U.S. Census, saying they are too low. However in the case of the declining black population, even after the previous years' estimates were revised, the population has been shown to drop.