Every six months, a publication like the New York Times prints an article about the new reverse migration, which involves Blacks in large coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles moving down South for more affordable living. According to its most recent report, “about 17 percent of the African-Americans who moved to the South from other states in the past decade came from New York, far more than from any other state, according to census data.”
This movement is celebrated for the simple fact that it reflects Black Americans getting in touch with their roots, for only half a century earlier, the migration was depleting the South of its African-American residents.
But for each story, there are two sides. One dynamic these reports don’t comment on is the fraction of new Southern inhabitants who find themselves moving back. Many, who move from New York and California, find that they’ve moved into a market with less jobs and less venues for social activity. It may be more affordable but only for those who can find work.
Kelly Green, a small business coach and internet marketer, moved to Atlanta in 2006 from the New York area. She enjoyed the affordability but realized the complex economics that made it possible. “I was able to buy a condo for about 1/3 the price I paid in NY with a lot more amenities,” she said. “But since then the housing market has slowed way down. There is so much inventory here in Atlanta it was impossible for me to sell when I tried to sell it and move back to NY.”
The unemployment rate as of April 2011 was 9.7 percent for Atlanta. For New York City, it was 8.6% as of May, with the East Coast city boasting a wider availability of jobs for highly skilled professionals. Atlanta is promoted as the new Black Mecca, helped in part by the proliferation of reality shows, the Tyler Perry business engine and its top notch offering of colleges, including two of the country’s best HBCUs.
Dr. Joyce Marley, who followed her daughter to Atlanta after a back injury, said that the city didn’t initially meet her expectations. “[I was] disappointed at how far many Caucasians and African-Americans had not come with regard to race and gender,” she said. Having witnessed people who’ve come and gone, Marley believes that networks are underestimated. Moving as an adult to a new city requires a lot of legwork, in terms of establishing social circles and acclimating into a new cultural environment.
“Many either return to where they came from or they move on to somewhere else, because they don’t have the support, find themselves not advancing, and they also do not find the sense of family as they thought they would..”