This article is about the social phenomenon. White flight is a term that originated in the How to white something out on pdf States, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, and applied to the large-scale migration of people of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions.
The term has more recently been applied to other migrations by whites, from older, inner suburbs to rural areas, as well as from the US Northeast and Midwest to the milder climate in the Southeast and Southwest. The term has also been used for large-scale post-colonial emigration of whites from Africa, or parts of that continent, driven by levels of violent crime and anti-colonial state policies. Migration of middle-class white populations was observed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s out of cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland, although racial segregation of public schools had ended there long before the US Supreme Court’s decision Brown v.
Board of Education in 1954. In the 1970s, attempts to achieve effective desegregation by means of forced busing in some areas led to more families’ moving out of former areas. More generally, some historians suggest that white flight occurred in response to population pressures, both from the large migration of blacks from the rural South to northern cities in the Great Migration and the waves of new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. However, some historians have challenged the phrase “white flight” as a misnomer whose use should be reconsidered.
In her study of West Side in Chicago during the post-war era, historian Amanda Seligman argues that the phrase misleadingly suggests that whites immediately departed when blacks moved into the neighborhood, when in fact, many whites defended their space with violence, intimidation, or legal tactics. Leah Boustan, Professor of Economics at Princeton, attributes white flight both to racism and economic reasons. The business practices of redlining, mortgage discrimination, and racially restrictive covenants contributed to the overcrowding and physical deterioration of areas where minorities chose to congregate.
Such conditions are considered to have contributed to the emigration of other populations. The limited facilities for banking and insurance, due to a perceived lack of profitability, and other social services, and extra fees meant to hedge against perceived profit issues increased their cost to residents in predominantly non-white suburbs and city neighborhoods. According to the environmental geographer Laura Pulido, the historical processes of suburbanization and urban decentralization contribute to contemporary environmental racism. In the United States during the 1940s, for the first time a powerful interaction between segregation laws and race differences in terms of socioeconomic status enabled white families to abandon inner cities in favor of suburban living.
The result was severe urban decay that, by the 1960s, resulted in crumbling “ghettos”. Prior to national data available in the 1950 US census, a migration pattern of disproportionate numbers of whites moving from cities to suburban communities was easily dismissed as merely anecdotal. Because American urban populations were still substantially growing, a relative decrease in one racial or ethnic component eluded scientific proof to the satisfaction of policy makers.
In essence, data on urban population change had not been separated into what are now familiarly identified its “components. The first data set potentially capable of proving “white flight” was the 1950 census.
But original processing of this data, on older-style tabulation machines by the US Census Bureau, failed to attain any approved level of statistical proof. It was rigorous reprocessing of the same raw data on a UNIVAC I, led by Donald J. Bogue of the Scripps Foundation and Emerson Seim of the University of Chicago, that scientifically established the reality of white flight. It was not simply a more powerful calculating instrument that placed the reality of white flight beyond a high hurdle of proof seemingly required for policy makers to consider taking action.
Also instrumental were new statistical methods developed by Emerson Seim for disentangling deceptive counter-effects that had resulted when numerous cities reacted to departures of a wealthier tax base by annexation. In other words, central cities had been bringing back their new suburbs, such that families that had departed from inner cities were not even being counted as having moved from the cities.