Friday, 9 January 2015

Rapid changes in racial/ethnic composition in Houston and Detroit

Does white flight still happen? Perhaps the rapid changes in racial/ethnic composition today would be better described by another term, nonetheless, rapid changes do seem to occur in many large American cities.

Here's a look at how these changes have occurred (between 2000 and 2010) in two cities, Detroit and Houston.

Detroit has been used as a textbook historic example of "white flight", having gone from overwhelming white to overwhelming non-white (mostly black) in the last century. This seems to have gone hand in hand with inner city decline, which continues today, spreading into more outlying neighbourhoods. Much of the census tracts experiencing rapid changes in racial composition are probably the result of Hispanics and especially blacks moving to these areas and out of the inner city.

Houston is rather different, while Detroit saw essentially no population change in its metropolitan area, Houston is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. However, 93% of its population increase is the result of an increase in the population of its various visible minority groups, which now make up 59.5% of the metropolitan area's population. The 1.1 million in visible minority population added in the last decade had to be housed somewhere, creating potential for rapid changes in ethnic composition.

So lets look at which census tracts have had the share of the population that are visible minorities increase by over 20 percentages points (ex from 55% VM to 75% VM).

Starting with Detroit, with census tracts where blacks have seen the biggest increase in population share in blue, Hispanics in orange, and Asians in red.
If are familiar with Detroit, you will notice that many of these are neighbourhoods just beyond areas that were minority dominated in 2000. For instance, there is a semi complete ring around Detroit's city limits, to the NE and W of the city around 8 mile and Telegraph Road respectively, and both on the city and suburban side. On the inside of this ring are neighbourhoods of the city of Detroit, which in 2000 were usually 95%+ black*. To the outside of this ring are suburbs that were typically less than 5% black. The ring itself was about 85% white on the suburban side, less on the city side.

It seems like much of the black population of Detroit is moving into neighbourhoods that are just 1-2 miles further out and only a bit newer. There are still blacks moving to areas further out THOUGH, such as Westland, Canton, Van Buren and Wixom. Other areas that experienced increases include parts of Inkster and Southfield, which has already had a black majority in 2000, and parts of Farmington Hills adjacent to Southfield.

There is a similar pattern with Hispanics, though on a much smaller scale since they make up a smaller part of the overall population, with big increases in their population share on the outer edge of the existing hispanic communities in SW Detroit and northern Pontiac.

Asians saw large increases in their population share in communities that already had relatively significant Asian populations, in Hamtramck, Troy, and rapidly growing parts of Canton.

In the case of Detroit, not all areas that experienced an increase in the share of minorities experienced a decrease in the number of whites. There were a few cases where both the white and minority population increased, but the increase in the number of minorities sufficiently outpaced the increase in the number of whites that the minority share nonetheless increased by >20%. Such areas are mapped in white below.
Areas where the white population decreased by up to 25% are shown in pink, and areas where the white population decreased by over 25% are shown in red. So in the inner suburbs, these changes have been driven by a large decrease in whites and large increase in minorities, and areas where both increased are limited to suburbs further out.

So how does this compare to Houston?
In Houston, like with Detroit, these changes have generally occurred in a ring between the existing minority dominated areas and white outer suburbs, however, due to the significantly higher minority % of Houston (and more whites closer to the core west of Downtown), this ring is pushed further out, sometimes reaching the suburban fringe.

Which minority drives the increase follows somewhat similar patterns to Detroit.

Much of the city of Houston's Asian population are in the SW of the city, and the big increases in the share of Asians have been in the SW suburbs like Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch. Hispanics are the dominant group in SE Houston and one of the areas where their share is rapidly increasing are SE suburbs like Pasadena, South Houston. Hispanics account for 62% of Houston's population growth, so it's not surprising that they are the most rapidly growing minority group in the greatest number of neighbourhoods.

In any case, the minorities in Houston are less segregated from each other (and from whites) than in Detroit with many areas having several minorities well represented.

Here's second map for Houston (with a black outline so that the areas in question stand out more against light grey subdivisions and industrial areas).
Compared to Detroit, there are much more areas that have experienced a 20% increase in minority share while also increasing the white population, again mostly in outer suburbs. However, Houston still has a lot of more close in suburban areas where the large increase in minorities was accompanied with a large decrease in the white population.

*These areas may have seen a big decrease in the number of whites remaining, but even if they go from 5% white to 1% white, the share of whites has only decreased by 4 percentage points, much less than the 20% required to show up on the map. I don't consider this a flaw with my methodology though, since in such neighbourhoods, the racial transition is just about complete, and what I'm interested in are areas that are still changing rapidly.

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