WASHINGTON – Blacks make up a greater portion of the population in the South than at any time in five decades, U.S. Census figures indicate.
The vast majority of blacks who moved South are young and educated who left declining Northeastern and Midwestern cities for better opportunities, the figures suggest. Michigan and Illinois, states with big cities with rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, Brookings Institution chief demographer William Frey told The New York Times.
Atlanta replaced Chicago, for the first time, as the metropolitan area with the largest number of African-Americans after New York.
New York state lost more blacks to the South than any other state, accounting for about 17 percent of blacks who moved South in the past decade, the census data cited by the Times show.
The percentage of black Americans living in the South is far lower than before the Great Migration of 1910 to 1930, when 2 million blacks moved out of the South to the Midwest, Northeast and West to escape racism and to seek jobs in industrial cities.
Back then the share of blacks living in the South was 90 percent of the overall U.S. black population. Today it is 57 percent, the highest since 1960, the census figures suggest.
The five counties with the largest black populations in 2000 — Cook in Illinois, Los Angeles, Wayne in Michigan, Kings in New York and Philadelphia — all lost black population in the last decade, the Times said.
Two percent of the black population growth in the past decade occurred in counties traditionally considered black population centers, while 20 percent took place in counties where only a tiny fraction of the population had been black, the figures indicate.
Of the blacks who moved to the South, 40 percent were adults ages 21 to 40. One in four newcomers had a four-year college degree, compared to one in six of the black adults who had already lived in the South.