Where African-Americans Are Doing The Best Economically
Yet economic conditions for African-Americans vary widely throughout the country. We decided to look into which of America’s 52 largest metropolitan areas present African-Americans with the best opportunities. We weighed these metropolitan statistical areas by three critical factors — homeownership, entrepreneurship, as measured by the self-employment rate, and median household income — that we believe are indicators of middle-class success. Data for those is from 2013. In addition, we added a fourth category, demographic trends, measuring the change in the African-American population from 2000 to 2013 in these metro areas, to judge how the community is “voting with its feet.” Each factor was given equal weight.
In the first half of the 20th century, African-Americans fled the former Confederate states for economic opportunity, to escape from institutional racism and, sometimes, for their lives. This pattern, notes demographer Bill Frey, began to reverse itself in the 1970s, with Southern states becoming destinations for black migrants. Since 2000, when the Census registered the first increase in the region’s black population in more than a century, this trend has accelerated, with African-Americans leaving not just the Northeast or Midwest, but the West Coast as well.
Today, Dixie has emerged, in many ways, as the new promised land for African-Americans. In our survey the South accounts for a remarkable 13 of the top 15 metro areas.
At the top of our list is Atlanta, long hailed as the unofficial capital of black America. The city, which in the 1960s advertised itself as “the city too busy to hate,” has long lured ambitious African-Americans. With its well-established religious and educational institutions, notably Spelman and Morehouse, which are ranked first and third, respectively, by US News among the nation’s historically black colleges, the area has arguably the strongest infrastructure for African-American advancement in the country. The region’s strong music and art scene has also made it an “epicenter for black glitterati” and culture.
The superlatives extend well beyond glamour to the basics of everyday life. Some 46.9% the metro area’s black population owned their own homes as of 2013, well above the 38% major metro average for African-Americans. Atlanta’s African-Americans have a median household income of $41,800, also considerably above the major metro average, while their rate of self-employment, 17.1%, is second only to New Orleans.
Clear evidence of the Atlanta area’s appeal can be seen in the growth of the black population, up 50% from 2000 through 2013. This is also well above the of 28% average growth in the African-American population in the nation’s 52 biggest metro areas during the same time.
This shift of African-Americans to Southern metro areas is widespread. Population growth since 2000 above 40% was posted by No. 2 metro area Raleigh, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C. (sixth); Orlando (seventh) as well as the three cities that tie for eighth place: Miami; Richmond, Va.; and San Antonio. The same can be said of Texas’ other big cities: Austin (11th), Houston (12th) and Dallas-Fort Worth (13th).
If there’s a challenger to Atlanta and the renewed Southern ascendency for African-Americans, it’s the greater Washington, D.C., area which ranks third. The median black household income in the metro area is $64,896, more than $20,000 above that of Atlanta and other top-ranked southern cities. Home ownership rates, at 49.2%, are also the highest in the nation.
As in Atlanta, Washington’s black community has strong institutions of culture and higher education. The District is home to Howard University, the nation’s second-ranked historically black university. Washington’s urban core may be becoming less black — down from 60% in 2000 to under 50% in 2013– but this has been more than made up for by the burgeoning population of surrounding suburban areas such as Prince George’s County, which is majority black and relatively prosperous, with poverty rates well below those of the city. http://www.newgeography.com/content/004006-suburban-urban-core-poverty-2012-special-report The key plus here appears to be the the federal government, which employs many people at high wages in the area.
Incomes also have been boosted by the government in No. 4 Baltimore, which enjoys the third highest black median income and the third highest self-employment rate after Atlanta and New Orleans. As in Washington, much of this prosperity is not in the hardscrabble city core, but in surrounding suburban areas such as Baltimore County, where the black population grew from 20% of the total in 2000 to over 26% in 2010.