The Crusader studied 20 years of U.S. Census data and found that Blacks are leaving Chicago more than any Midwest city. Los Angeles has the fastest growing Black population in the nation. Black residents are moving Houston closer to overtaking Chicago as the third largest U.S. city. Blacks are also flocking to Atlanta and Florida. And look out, here comes Charlotte, North Carolina.
By Erick Johnson
Summer is over. Fall is settling in. In addition to professional and college football games, it’s also moving season for many Black and white residents in Chicago and other northern cities. For Blacks, it’s a sprint to a better life and a desperate escape from poverty and violence.
In the next several months, moving trucks will pull up to many homes and apartments in many Black neighborhoods in Chicago and big northern cities to haul away belongings and uproot Black families before winter arrives. Seeking a better life, they will leave years of frustration behind for big dreams and economic opportunity.
It’s the reverse migration, a national trend where millions of Blacks are returning to the Southern cities that their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents fled decades ago for northern cities that provided better jobs and opportunities for people of color.
The mass migration is restructuring the populations of major cities throughout the country, causing some towns to drop and others to boom with growth.
It’s no secret that Chicago and Cook County have been losing thousands of Blacks in recent years, but a Crusader analysis of 20 years of U.S. Census data shows Blacks have been leaving predominantly Black suburbs, too. After years of slight growth in Black populations, northern white suburbs have also experienced a decline in residents of color.
With their white counterparts, they are fueling population booms in southern and western towns that are offering better jobs and a lower cost of living. As Blacks leave Chicago, others are ironically flocking to Houston as part of a population explosion that may eventually help the city overtake Chicago as the nation’s third largest by 2024.
The situation is the opposite in Chicago and Cook County, where Black flight is well underway. How bad is the problem? Since 2010, 125,235 Blacks have moved from Chicago. In recent years, Chicago has had the highest percentage of Blacks moving out than any city in the Midwest, census data show.
The Black exodus is also happening in Chicago’s predominantly Black South suburban areas, like Harvey, where 2,198 Blacks have moved out since 2010, and 6,945 Black residents since 2000. Additionally, Chicago’s other predominantly Black South suburbs–Dolton and Markham–experienced slight declines in their Black population. Dolton’s 20,439 Black population declined by 607 residents of color since 2010. Markham, which has 10,006 Black residents, lost 123 people of color since 2010.
Blacks are also leaving many of the Northwest suburbs, many of which had higher Black populations with family-friendly neighborhoods and safer streets. Today, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Rolling Meadows have slightly fewer Black populations.
The 12,708 resident Black population in Evanston on Chicago’s tony North Shore, has been in steady decline since 2000, with 3,996 residents of color leaving the town according to the latest census data.
Blacks are also leaving North Chicago in far north Lake County. Some 4,828 Blacks have left North Chicago since 2000, and 1,550 have moved away since 2010. However, in recent years, Waukegan and Zion—two other far north suburbs—have grown slightly in their Black populations.
Since 2000, 25,362 Blacks have moved from Gary, Indiana. The city’s economy has been on a slow rebound under former Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, but challenges remain in the Steel City.
Analysts and residents say crime and jobs are the two biggest reasons for the declining Black population in Chicago and other cities. Another reason is family. Many Blacks are returning to the smaller, hospitable southern cities, where housing is more affordable. Many like the better climate and year-round warm weather.
Of the four geographic regions today, the South is experiencing the biggest Black population growth after two decades of steady gains.
Since 2000, nearly 7.7 million Blacks have moved to southern states. The region with the second-highest growth in Black residents since 2000 is the West, which has gained 1,125,570 Black residents. The Midwest region during the 20-year period gained 1,498,078 Black residents. The North was last with just 658,689 new Black residents.
In 2000, a total of four states from the north Midwest regions–New York, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan–placed in the Top 10 list with the highest Black populations. Today, there are just three from the region and five from the South region with the highest Black populations.
North Carolina has overtaken Illinois as the state with the sixth highest Black population.
That jump can be attributed to Charlotte, North Carolina, one of America’s fastest growing city with a Black population that keeps growing and growing. Census data show that Charlotte has the third fastest growing Black population. Over the past two decades, 121,889 Blacks have moved to Charlotte.
Since 2000, whites and Blacks have flocked to Charlotte with its booming banking industry and a cost of living that’s nine percent lower than the national average. Many banks and big law firms are relocating to the city. On September 25, Business Facilities’ 13th Annual Rankings Report named Charlotte the No. 2 metro for economic growth potential. That ranking was based on Apple’s new $5 billion data center and Amazon’s new $375 million data-center wind farm.
For Charlotte’s newest Black residents, it’s a city whose yellow-brick road could lead to a harvest of economic opportunities. Many frequent the city’s Uptown neighborhood, a trendy entertainment district that includes many restaurants and retail stores.
In 2018, two Crusader employees retired and moved to Charlotte. That same year, Cory Wood, 48, moved from his hometown of Newark, New Jersey to Charlotte. Today, he is doing well with his own entertainment marketing and fashion firm. His 20-year-old daughter moved to Charlotte three months later. Her boyfriend recently moved to Charlotte and got a job one week after relocating to the booming city.
“It’s just a progressive town, “Wood told the Crusader. “The jobs and opportunities are here, and it’s a great place to raise a family.”
Other cities in the South and West are drawing Blacks. Houston, whose Black population in 2010 jumped by 245 percent to 498,466 after many Blacks fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, continues to attract people of color. Today, the Black population is at 534,865, which is 23 percent of the city’s 2.3 million residents.
Out of 35 cities surveyed, the Crusader found that 20 experienced increases in their Black population. Most were in the U.S. South and West regions. Only two from the Midwest–Indianapolis and Minneapolis—gained more residents. Boston also gained new Black residents.
Midwest and northern cities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Detroit and Cleveland among many others that once attracted Blacks, all declined in Black population.
However, Los Angeles’ Black population is booming, going from 365,118 residents in 2010 to 539,977, a 48 percent increase, giving the City of Angels the fastest growing Black population in the country. However, the Black population in two other big California cities–San Francisco and San Diego–has been steadily declining since 2000. Praised for their weather and scenic neighborhoods, San Francisco and San Diego are known for their expensive housing and high cost of living.
In the last two decades, Phoenix’s Black population has grown from 67,430 to 113,826, census data shows.
In a surprise development, Washington D.C., which has, for years, experienced gentrification, gained 7,162 new Black residents since 2010, after years of losing people of color and gaining young, white college-educated professionals. Once a predominantly Black city, the District is now 45 percent Black.
In Florida, more Blacks are moving to Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, which had the biggest gains in the last decade with 24,119 new people of color for an overall Black population of 276,540 residents.
All four of Texas’ biggest cities—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin—are drawing new Black residents. Most of these cities’ population growth is so strong that the percentage of Black population remains the same and has even decreased. Still, as these cities become more majority white, the Black population continues to grow.
With Atlanta booming as its capital city and a historically Black mecca, Georgia’s overall Black population continues to rise. Presently, the steadily rising Black population in culturally rich and affordable Savannah, Georgia has picked up steam, going from 75,507 in 2010 to 80,547. Many say Savannah’s warm climate, historic social scene and laid-back atmosphere are attracting Black seniors and retirees.
CORRECTION: Due to a calculation error, the print and previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Black population and growth in Charlotte, North Carolina. The article should have initially stated 872,498 represents Charlotte’s overall current population and 35% of this (305,374) represents its Black population- a 19 percent growth in Black residents since 2010 and a 66% increase since 2000.