Reverse Migration: ‘Buppies’ Leaving the North For Life In Other Parts of the Country

October 3, 2012  |  

A City College of New York assistant professor of political science, Daniel DiSalvo, has written a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discussing what the headline calls “The Great Reverse Migration” of blacks away from the northern parts of the US.

Citing the astounding figures found throughout The Warmth of Other Suns, the fantastic book by Isabel Wilkerson about the first Great Migration of blacks to the North to escape Jim Crow, DiSalvo notes the millions who made the trip to places like New York and Chicago during the 1900s. About six million to be exact.

But now there are new stats showing that a high number of blacks are making the reverse trip to places like Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida. More specifically, they’re making the move from big cities to other cities like Dallas and Atlanta (though moves to the suburbs have been plentiful as well). Citing figures from the New York Times, the column says that by the end of the 2000s, the black population in the South had grown 75 percent. New York, Illinois and Michigan are the states seeing the biggest exodus.

“Many of the migrants are ‘buppies’ — young, college-educated, upwardly mobile black professionals — and older retirees,” the column says. In other words, blacks who are moving up the ladder are seeking greener pastures (literally) by also moving to places where they can have bigger homes, a backyard, and a solidly middle class way of life. A lot of older retirees are also laying down fresh roots across the South.

DiSalvo pinpoints three reasons for this movement: job prospects, housing prices and the state of public education. The author, who is also a senior fellow at Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership, a conservative-leaning organization, goes on to talk about the possible political repercussions. Among them, the political impact of black immigrants, such as people from Africa and the Caribbean; and the difficulty in creating “predominantly black districts” as the black population spreads out. He posits that blacks may “try their political fortunes” outside of the Democratic party.

“New political attitudes among blacks also have trouble finding expression when black candidates are concentrated into one party,” the column says, suggesting that blacks may turn to the GOP or become independents.

While there’s no doubt that the economic and political landscape is changing for the black community, DiSalvo seems to take his argument a little too far. Blacks in this country continue to make great strides. More blacks are going to college, becoming entrepreneurs and joining the ranks of the middle class.

However, the economic recession has taken a toll. Black unemployment remains high. Women and minority business owners have trouble getting funding to start their businesses. Pew research shows that economic mobility has “stalled.” Some argue that many of the gains made by the black middle class were lost when the housing market went bust. So some of the same economic concerns linger, and progress has created a crop of new ones.

And, at least right now, Mitt Romney and the GOP aren’t making the case that he and his party represent all people. Romney is still reeling from the secret footage containing his talk about the 47 percent. Now there’s new ( or rather, old and played out) video of the President that’s again raising issues with race and race-baiting. And many are still thinking about the scant minority presence at the GOP convention. “…Obama is also president for Americans they felt were not reflected at last week’s largely white Republican National Convention, including advocates for women’s reproductive rights, Latinos fighting for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and gay rights activists,” reported NPR around the time of the Democratic convention last month.

But getting back to the migration story, it’s interesting that blacks are moving to the South in big numbers, but completely logical if that’s where a better, more affordable life can be found. Equally interesting, there’s a good chance that, just like the movement of Southern blacks to the North changed the culture and the nature of the Northern landscape, the same could happen in parts of the country where this Northern population is relocating. What do you think?

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