The End of White Flight?

Since 1940, “white flight” has affected the city’s demographics, not to mention its real estate market; every year, the population of white, non-Hispanic residents in the inner city decreased. That is, until the turn of this century. The NY Times reports that since 2000, 100,000 non-Hispanic whites have returned to the city, and half of that increase occurred between 2006 and 2007. Experts call the shift a “harbinger of racial equilibrium” and a testament to “diversity and ethnic heterogeneity.” For some, of course, such shifts signal an undertone of gentrification; it’s not always good news. And some of those folks returning from the ‘burbs work in the financial industry, lured by family-friendly, high-end projects that are sometimes seen as gated communities within the city; no one’s sure if they’ll stay as the economy sours. Still, the census findings reveal a strong city &#8212 stronger, in fact than some of the suburbs. The percentage of folks paying more than 30% of income on rent/mortgage dropped in NYC; it rose in the suburbs.
White Flight Has Reversed, Census Finds [NY Times]
Photo by thunderhoof

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  • “… the census findings reveal a strong city…”


  • “high-end projects”

    Like Bushwick Houses you mean?

  • Hooray – more diversity!!

  • I found the importance the NYTimes gave to the article
    (1st column on metro page) and its tone bordering on racist
    or at a minumum reflective of the Times unapologetic upper-middle class perspective and bias. As much as I like the paper and read it – I wince at the underlying message in many (local, real estate, etc) articles.

  • The lack of convenient land within the Northeast in which to ‘sprawl’ into, is the single factor that may save NYC from entering a horrible period like that from 1970-1990.

  • In an effort to stimulate conversation I will pose a question:

    How come when whites move to a non-white neighborhood, it is considered gentrification and when non-whites move to a white neighborhood, it is considered diversification?

  • pete – how is this not news worth of the first page of the metro section? at least annually, if not more often, stories about the diminishing share of “non-white hispanics” in the country’s population appear on the front page of the front section, along with full discussion of the reasons and potential ramifications. what’s “bordering on racist” or biased about this article, reporting a demographic shift? it’s a serious question – what, in your opinion, shouldn’t have they reported? or if it’s not the content but purely the tone, what, specifically, do you find offensive about it?

  • Perhaps the rest of NYC is finally catching with something that happened in Lefferts Manor back in the ’50s.

  • Likewise, A Guest, why is there an outpouring of sympathy for a poor person who is displaced by a middle-class gentrifier, but none for the middle-class person who is forced out of his/her neighborhood by bankers and foreigners?

  • “How come when whites move to a non-white neighborhood, it is considered gentrification and when non-whites move to a white neighborhood, it is considered diversification?”

    Whites move out by choice if they don’t want diversity. Blacks are forced out economically whether they want to stay or not.

  • My move from the west village to brooklyn was based on economic necessity, DOW.

  • My move from Carroll Gardens (where I lived for 15 years) to South Brooklyn was also based on economic necessity. I’m a white woman, FWIW.

  • no no no, all white people are rich donchaknow.

  • I am personally just biding my time until I am forced to move again because of economic necessity…. I am white and make good money by any standard other than NYC.

  • Why I think tone is biased?
    Headline is “White Flight” has Reversed…..
    the term white flight has always been used to describe whites(especially middle class) ‘fleeing’ as in escaping some thing or some situation that is bad or negative.
    Mostly increased afro-american population – much of it schools.
    To highlight the info in article with white-flight reversed sets the message this is good news. When the NYTimes or other media write about increased hispanic population in many of our older suburbs – the jist is those areas are now getting some ‘urban problems’.
    Thhe article hails this statistic – not just reports it.
    Such as the quotes of “diversity and ethnic heterogeniety” and “sets New York apart from many other older cities” ,etc.
    Then 5th paaragraph starts that he “cautioned that it could be short-lived gieven the turmoil on Wall Street”.
    You don’t ‘caution’ about some bad news that is short lived – you caution about good news that is short-lived.

    So to me I interpret NYTimes attitude is increased white population is good and increased non-white is not good.

  • I think DOW’s viewpoint is a common misconception amongst the potentially displaced people in gentrifying neighborhoods. Just as many middle class people are being displaced from their neighborhoods as the poor. Housing in NYC is a problem for everyone, not just the poor.

  • If you live in the City, it’s a good thing if more people want to live here, regardless of color. So yes, that’s worth reporting and interpreting favorably.

  • I think you’re the only person who gathers that tone from the article Pete.

  • “diversity and ethnic heterogeniety”

    Racist effin’ douchebags!

  • I think it’s racist to think this article is racist!!

  • Can’t we just all get along… I suggest a top-down approach. The city needs to develop and enforce a sort of grid – demarcation of the neighborhoods and areas that are “OK to Gentrify” and those that are “OK to Fill with Minorities”

    That should work – there are no wealthy minorities, so that should keep the real estate nice and cheap and the dirty word “gentrify” wouldn’t have to be used. And the “OK to Gentrify” neighborhoods will be 100% white and “heterogeneous” so everyone will be happy. Bed-Stuy will experience a Harlem Renaissance of its own because the whites are preventing their expression of culture and Bensonhurst will finally look like Park Slope because they’ve just been waiting for the green light to gentrify! Hoorah!

  • (oops… I think I may have fallen victim to hyperbole and sarcasm.)

  • Intersting Pete. The article did not talk about african americans. It did mention Hispanics. It even notes that long-time Hispanic residents are leaving the city. Why do you jump on African Americans as the reason for white flight?

    Many whites left for lots of reasons: bad schools, high crime, dirty streets, unreliable mass transit. But many also dreamed of a house with a white pickett fence and a yard, which is hard to come by in the 5 boros and is/was teh American dream. So they left. Some of them are coming back. And some people, Hispanics in this case, are leaving – probably looking for a house with a yard and a white pickett fence and following the American dream.

    And guess what, lots of middle class blacks are doing/did the same. Some moved from Brooklyn to southeastern Queens. (They were smart enough to avoid the high taxes of Long Island.) Soem moved to towns outside the city.

    This article is noting a trend. You are reading way too much into this.

  • I feel the opposition to this article is the idea that more white people moving to the city is a bad thing.

  • Petebklyn,

    On the contrary, I think the article may point to a DECLINE in bias. IMO one of the most toxic aspects of racism has been the perception by whites that they MUST move out of an area when minority people start to move in. That is why integration has, historically (and cynically) been described as the brief period between the first minority families moving in and the last white families leaving. A very few neighborhoods (like my beloved PLG) have resisted this trend, but a larger scale reversal (assuming this article is correct) is IMO a very desirable thing.

  • I think the article is reporting that demographers, city planners and sociologists think that New York City is experiencing decreased fluctuations in the racial makeup of New York City. It also says this is new in New York, and makes New York unique among older cities. Yes, this is news, and yup, you’re reading too much into this.

  • ^^that was a response to petebklyn.

  • No – the problem is that white people are moving where they’re *not supposed to* and inflicting ills upon non-whites by exercising their privilege. Meanwhile, non-whites that are exercising (admittedly, less historic) privilege are not questioned when they buy a 1-bedroom apartment for $1.7 million…. even though that raises housing costs for everyone, white, black, brown, orange, green, purple.

    While it’s not an irrational double-standard… white privilege is real and must be recognized… gentrifying is gentrifying. People are simply moving back to the city because it’s nicer than it was in the 70s and 80s when lots of people ran away (majority white, but also the full rainbow).

    Don’t blame the housing market. While it is INSANE in this city – what color a person is doesn’t affect what the *may* buy or rent. The issue is *can* – and that has nothing to do with the houses and neighborhoods. It has to do with the economy, racism in the workplace, inequity in education, and so on. The housing market will continue to be insane as long as there is someone paying ridiculous prices… it doesn’t matter what color they are, they just need a fat checkbook.

  • My last post was in response to A Guest “I feel the opposition to this article is the idea that more white people moving to the city is a bad thing.”


  • Been out at a meeting all morning. Just glad that none of this is an issue in Bed Stuy.

  • What this article fails to touch on is the age of the white people moving into NYC – they make it sound as if it’s people involved in the original white flight returning to reclaim their neighborhoods, when infact, it is more than likely recent college graduates coming to the city because there are more jobs (well, WERE more jobs)

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but not every white, recent college graduate is an investment banker making 1 million dollars a year. Many are making under 50k a year and cannot afford to live in Manhattan/gentrified brooklyn. I would venture to say that these new white people are moving to neighborhoods where their income can afford them to live comfortably.

  • How does white immigration factor into this? I hear 4 of 10 new yorkers are not born here and at least 2 of 10 of the remainder are the children of immigrants. The immigration figures look quite high for poles, brits, russians.

  • The fact that more and more Whites are moving into the City when real estate prices are all time high and more more Blacks are moving out of the City for lower-cost locales means Whites have more options than Blacks. Why deny the obvious?

  • Maybe the blacks are selling to the whites and taking their profits to live somewhere else. Did that ever occur to you newbie?

  • in our brooklyn neighborhood, there are many “non-white” families who own not just one but several townhouses and/or apartment buildings in the immediate neighborhood. they’ve owned them for decades, and they’re free to ask for whatever price they want to rent or sell them for. what i’m getting at is that these people have the privilege, too, and exercise it however they want. is anyone surprised when they exercise it in the way that maximizes utility for themselves and their families, and don’t specifically go out of their way to preserve the economic or racial makeup of the neighborhood as it existed in 1970?

  • As asians have the highest household income in the US do they have the mostesterest options?

  • “My move from the west village to brooklyn was based on economic necessity, DOW.”

    “My move from Carroll Gardens (where I lived for 15 years) to South Brooklyn was also based on economic necessity. I’m a white woman, FWIW.”

    Those are NOT non-white nabes, Fast Freddy and I_haz_TWO_toilets. I was responding to the question about the “gentrification” label in non-white nabes where those indigenous residents are displaced by whites versus white nabes where the indigenous residents proactively choose to move out because they don’t want diversity. That has NOT happened in Carrol Gardens and the West Village.

  • “I think DOW’s viewpoint is a common misconception amongst the potentially displaced people in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

    Read carefully the question I was responding to. I never said whites can’t be displaced.

  • Indigenous residents? Are you taking Native Americans, DOW?

    Here is a clue, DOW, when non-Italians moved into CG, they were replacing indigenous residents, a.k.a. old-time Italian-Americans. You may not believe it, but this was an issue for some of them. So nice of you to disregard it.

    Nothing about this article talks about gentrification or whites displacing blacks. It is really telling that some have this knee-jerk reaction.

    As “i disagree” put it, there are lots of scenarios in which one group moves into a neighborhood and others leave. To boil it down to black vs. white and assume that all blacks suffered because of the changes shows a lack of knowledge and personal experience about how this city works and has worked since the first Europeans arrived.

  • I think it would be wrong to characterize the influx of younger people as “displacing” entrenched homeowners. A lot of the properties turning over are “investor owned” and it seems that the majority of those being sold that are “owner occupied” are estate sales and folks moving to a retirement residence elsewhere in the country.

    Of the people new to the neighborhood, it seems to me to be about 60% black and 40% white..a few Asians moving in as well. If anything, the number of younger blacks moving in might be higher.

    Nothing earth-shattering or noteworthy in the shifting demographics over here.

  • If you honestly believe that 11233 then I guess we’re only undergoing “mental recession” and racism ceased to exist since 21st America is all going be about class struggle. You must be a RepubliKKKlan.

  • Sorry…My post above dealt specifically with Bed Stuy

  • Brownstoner refers to “those folks returning from the ‘burbs” but the article does not state that anyone is moving from the burbs or that the number of whites in the burrbs has declined at all. I think someone already made the point that these new whiteys are college grads and people from around the country.

  • the article doesn’t address at all who the “new whiteys” are or where they’re coming from. shillstoner, do you have any data to support that it’s college grads and not-previously-suburban transplants from other parts of the country? and if that does account for the shift, why are more of them coming to NYC than they previously did?

  • Again, 11233, I was responding to the question @ 10:25. Here it is:

    “How come when whites move to a non-white neighborhood, it is considered gentrification and when non-whites move to a white neighborhood, it is considered diversification?”

    The black and white boil-down was covertly embedded into the question. I used the term “indigenous” loosely to mean the long-time residents displaced. Your Italian/Non-Italian scenario has no application to the question. By and large, the non-Italians who recently moved into CG are most certainly NOT non-white.


  • newbie12222 what are you referring to? i just read 11233 post @ 1:08 and it seems correct. i bought a brownstone in cobble hill in the mid-90’s and he is accurately depicting the environment at that time.

  • newbie: I am not a Republican. I am also not a knee-jerking racist like you. We are in a class war and – despite what you think – class is not determined by the color of the skin but by income. There are plenty of whites who are poor or middle class who suffer from the same problems as all poor and middle class people in this country regardless of color. Your inability to understand that not all whites are rich and not all blacks are poor is a painful simplification of reality. You need to get out more.

    Oh DOW …

    “Whites move out by choice if they don’t want diversity. Blacks are forced out economically whether they want to stay or not.”

    That is a fallacy. You, like newbie, are pretty clueless. You too need to get out more.

  • yes, idisagree (the only name I like more than my own), my “evidence” is a combo of anecdotal and the fact that census data for the burbs shows a slighlty higher number of white folk as in 2000.

  • Why has this become a black vs white debate? They were not mentioned once in the article.

  • setting aside the anecdotal, doesn’t the census data you cite support the fact that people are coming from the suburbs to NYC? does it change the analysis much if they’re from suburbs in california rather than suburbs of westchester?

  • Is it not common sense i disagree?
    Do you really think that middle aged and older white people, who fled the city are really returning, selling their houses in the burbs after suffering 25% losses and gentrifying neighborhoods?

    I just makes no sense whatsoever. It’s not happening.

  • Well I haven’t seen any data to suggest a ‘white flight’ from the burbs, but it is totally true that the only burb data I’ve seen is westchester (where the number of whites has slightly increased). So perhaps middle aged people are fleeing the burbs of LA and moving to NYC. But I haven’t seen any data to support that idea either. In any case, there is nothing in this article to support that idea and therefore no reason for Brownstoner to construct the discussion that way (which was the point I was making).

  • AG, is *what* not common sense? i am not arguing, nor is this article reporting, that the same actual people who “fled” the city are now returning. the article is about a current demographic trend. and i was responding to shillstoner’s suggestion that the numbers don’t support the notion that anyone is coming from the suburbs but rather that it could be explained by college students and people from other parts of the country.

    but i do agree that you just make no sense whatsoever. 😉

  • shillstoner – gotcha & i agree that brownstoner’s construction was forced. the way i look at it is: the original numbers (as cited in the article) addressed whites moving out of the city, without reference to who they were or where they were going. if immigration is decreasing across all races (the article suggested this, but i don’t know if it’s true) and the number and percentage of whites in NYC is increasing, those whites must be coming from somewhere internally. whether it is entirely people from the suburbs or an increased proportion or number of college students and people from other urban centers, the numbers still represent a reversal and that reversal is interesting and newsworthy. in my opinion, anyway.

  • Well we’ll agree to disagree i disagree haha.
    This is Brownstoner, nothing we talk about is supported by numbers!

  • 11233: You have no concept or idea of being/living as a Minority in US do you?? That only explains your “knee-jerk” dismissal of racism today and that “poor” Whites cannot be racist bc their economic plight. Actually “poor” Whites tend to be the worst kind of racists, IMO.

  • Newbie: You see the world through Afro-centric glasses with racism around every corner.

    Here is yet another clue for you: Blacks can be racist. And not only towards whites but any and all non-blacks. In my neighborhood, blacks make comments to the whites, south Asians, east Asians, Latinos and – yes – other blacks who don’t act “black enough.” No one dare question that, right? No one should say anything because that is not right, correct? Because all blacks are poor and stupid and they got that way through the active process of decrimination of all non-blacks and “uppitty” blacks, right? Guess what, there is no committee to keep the black race down. If you fail, it is because you failed. No one in the city gives a crap about you. It is every man, woman and child for themselves. And that crosses all color lines. Take personal responsibility for your behavior and suffer teh consequences. It isn’t easy for any of us, but that is how it works in the city.

    Your inability to accept the consequences of your behave and situation in life reeks of immaturity. It is easier to blame others than take responisibilty for your own behavior.

  • We aren’t talking about what it’s like being a minority in the US newbie. What we’re ultimately talking about is the lack of affordable housing for the vast majority of people in NYC who fall in between those who make millions of dollars per year, and those who qualify for gov’t assistance.

    Racism against minorities does exist. No one is saying it doesn’t. It also exists against white people as well. It sucks.

  • Wow! 11233 – you’re really venting aren’t you?? While you’re preaching & spewing a lot bullshits and naivete on the system, at least I am helping you to connect with your truer and inner feelings about how you see your fellow neighbors.

  • “My move from the west village to brooklyn was based on economic necessity, DOW.” (Fast Freddy)

    “My move from Carroll Gardens (where I lived for 15 years) to South Brooklyn was also based on economic necessity. I’m a white woman, FWIW.” (I_haz_TWO_toilets)

    “My move from the UES to Fort Greene was not based on economic necessity…or was it? But that was a long time ago. I’m not a white woman.”(BrooklynGreene)

  • Newbie: You are preaching and spewing bullshit. You don’t want to deal with a lot of crap that is of your own doing. It is easier for you to blame others for your own failures than grow up and take responsibility for yourself.

    You didn’t help me understand anything.

    You can hide behind racism (yours and others), but it doesn’t change the fact that you simply have no clue what you are talking about.

  • My question is when are these whites going to fly the coop again. When I ask them why they moved here (CH), they say for the diversity. What diversity it’s mostly all white. It may be trendy but it’s all white bread and painfully boring.

  • Evidence of white flight fromt the suburbs. Please look at the demographic information for Metro Atlanta

    Can whites be gentrified? Please look at Hoboken. Where the long time Italian and Italian-American residents could not believe the waves of yuppies on Washington Street. The old stores,gone. In their place, lots of bars.

  • Really momo284, you need to stop seeing whites as monolithic and realize that a southern italian, a norwegian, a scot and an appalachian-born-and-bred are all very different characters. Perhaps you should speak to one of them.

  • Thank you for the New York City perspective on this national trend in urban demographics. You quote two comments from the New York Times article “White flight has reverse, census finds”, stating that “experts call the shift a Harbinger of racial equilibrium” and a testament to diversity and ethnic heterogeneity”. I was greatly surprised that you would agree with this statement especially in light of your particular metropolitan area, since it is already ethnically diverse, with the 2007 American Community Survey showing that whites already account for a significant part of the demographics within New York City’s metro area. I am interested to know if you feel, living in the area, as though there is something different about these “new” city residents that sets them apart in diversity than those already there. It seemed from your blog that these new comers may in fact inhabit communities or developments that are less diverse and integrated “seen as gated communities within the city.” It seems in hindsight that whites, or more specifically the middle and upper economic groups, left the city in the 1940’s primarily because the suburbs provided the room that baby boom parents needed, a sound financial investment and a cleaner, safer existence than was available in the cities at the time. Now that many of the factors that made cities dirty (e.g. manufacturing) have ended or moved out of central cities, city life may seem more enticing, offering lucrative new economic and personal incentives to young professionals today with smaller families. Perks such as an active community, shorter commutes and many cultural and art opportunities that are afforded by their social economic class also increase the appeal of urban life for professionals. Census data reveals a distinct trend of strengthening cities not only New York but also Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, etc. However, as you elude to, this trend may be more closely linked to evidence of economics, than to any real trend in racial diversity.