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Look Who’s Flocking

Evolved “White flight” creates an unexpected, suburban microcosm of America
  • January 25 2012

“White flight” to American suburbs is not exactly a thing of the past, even though mainstream media heralded its return trip to city centers in 2010.

That was before demographers sifted through 2010 U.S. Census data which revealed that like their mid-century predecessors who flocked away from racially diverse urban areas to the suburbs, young Whites are gravitating toward suburbia as they mature. Demographer Wendell Cox’s analysis of census data found that 35 to 44 year-olds, who were 25 to 34 at the time of the 2000 census, have taken to the convenience of the suburbs by 12 percent. That same group has departed from core cities by nearly 28 percent.

While segregation was one of the drivers of “White flight” in the 50s and 60s, today’s suburban landscape is racially and ethnically integrated. Suburbs still tilt White. But, for the first time, a majority of all racial and ethnic groups in large metro areas live outside the city, according to the Brookings Institution. Indeed, Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, told The New York Times that “suburbia is a microcosm of America. It’s multiethnic and multiracial. It tells you where America is going.”

In turn, many Whites are increasingly self-identifying outside of their race. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of Whites who reported more than one race has grown by 37 percent, according to The White Population: 2010 census brief. Three fourths of the growth in the White population was due to growing numbers of Hispanic Whites, with non-Hispanic Whites dipping 5.4 percentage points.

As the suburbs become more diverse—and as a younger demographic expands to the suburbs—it seems homogeny is not what this group is seeking. For marketers, the suburbs now provide a more accurate snapshot of America. In addition, classifying and targeting U.S. Hispanics is becoming increasingly difficult as cultural assimilation, geographic migration and changing modes of self-identification continue to blur the lines of what it means to be Hispanic.

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