A fascinating article in Sunday’s New York Times deals with one of the subjects that is a frequent topic on this blog—housing patterns. Using demographic data from the Census Bureau and home lending data published as part of the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the reporters “identified every census tract in the country that has grown notably more racially diverse since 2000.”
They found a consistent nationwide trend of increased diversity. Affluent whites are moving into central city areas that have been populated by blacks for many generations and middle-class non-whites are moving into suburbs long the domain of white families. The authors posit that the movement of whites into the central cities is a result of several factors. The major factor they cite is historical disinvestment by society in those areas, which has made them ripe for reinvestment. Another factor is old housing stock that was approaching the end of its life.
This increased diversity is altering the nature of the communities affected. The primary finding highlighted in the story is that the non-whites moving into the suburbs blend into, or integrate, their new communities relatively seamlessly. However, that is not true for whites moving into the central cities. The reason is not racial tension, but economics. While the non-whites moving into the suburbs have incomes similar to the families already living there, the average incomes of the whites moving into the central city neighborhoods are significantly higher than those who have lived there for many years. It turns out people feel more comfortable associating with those on their same income level. (This is not really a surprise.)
The focus of the story is a changing traditional black section of Raleigh, N.C. But it just as well could be Richmond. The invaluable feature of the on-line story is an interactive map. By keying in an address or Zip Code, one can focus in on the change in racial diversity in any area of the country.
This story illustrates another topic discussed recently on this blog—the importance of newspapers. Few, if any, other news blogs or internet sources have the resources to gather, analyze, and put together data like this. In addition, it illustrates what newspapers can do when they learn to use digital technology to enhance their reporting, as the NYT and some others have done. As much as I like having an actual paper to read (I enjoyed an hour in the morning in the backyard with my tea and Sunday RTD), the physical version cannot give me an interactive map or a visual drive-by tour of a changing neighborhood.There are currently no comments highlighted.