Blacks Are Leaving Austin Even As The City’s Population Continues To Grow

July 22, 2014  |  

According to Natalie Madeira Cofield, head of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, she often finds herself counting how many black people she comes across in her Texas town.

“If I get past 10, I’m like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of black people out today,’ ” Cofield tells The New York Times.

While Austin, with its population of 885,400, is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities, African Americans seem to be leaving town. When looking at large, fast-growing cities, Austin is the only one with a dwindling African-American population, found a May report from the University of Texas at Austin that came to its concluding by using Census Bureau data.

“It is completely outside the norm,” said Eric Tang, an author of the report. The report examined cities of at least 500,000 residents that had a double-digit rate of population growth from 2000 to 2010. During that time period, Austin’s population grew 20.4 percent. The city’s African-American population dropped 5.4 percent. The black population in Austin’s rural areas, however, increased.

Dr. Tang attributes this decline and exodus to the suburbs on disparities in public education, a distrust of police, and obstacles to accessing jobs in the city’s growing technology and construction sectors. The city’s history of racial segregation and the ensuing gentrification of Austin’s historically black neighborhoods are also factors.

“These patterns do not square with Austin’s reputation as a ‘tolerant’ city, one celebrated for its progressivism, cultural dynamism and emphasis on sustainability,” the report said.

Some blacks are heading to suburbs like Pflugerville, lured by better housing value and school districts. Others have relocated to cities with larger African-American populations, such as Houston.

Still others feel pushed out of once-black neighborhoods due to gentrification. One such community is East Austin. “After a 1928 city plan called for a  ‘Negro district’ east of the Texas Capitol, many African-Americans moved there because the only schools and parks open to them were in that part of town. Years later, East Austin’s proximity to downtown has driven up property values and taxes, prompting some longtime residents to leave,” reports the Times.

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