By Lydia Wileden
PUBLISHED DECEMBER 4, 2007
A recent upsurge in the white population of New York City, reflected in statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau, signifies what some analysts are calling the end of white flight.
Within Manhattan’s Community District 9, which includes Morningside Heights and West Harlem, the white population has grown from 20.6 percent to 26.6 percent over the past year, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Manhattan-wide, between 2000 and 2006 the percent of whites increased from 45.8 percent to 47.8 percent. Meanwhile, the growth of the city’s African-American and Hispanic populations have slowed. Over the past six years, the number of African-Americans decreased and the Hispanic population only increased by approximately 911 people.
The decline of white flight “certainly seems to be a trend locally, in select neighborhoods in the city of New York,” said Gregory Smithsimon, assistant professor of urban studies. “Our everyday experience suggests that white flight is over. Most of lower Manhattan, below 125th Street, is predominantly white due to gentrification.” But, Smithsimon added, “When you zoom out a bit you doubt that white flight is over because Manhattan is still more poverty-stricken then the outer suburbs, partially due to the racial divide.”
Smithsimon explained that the decline of white flight is tied to important social implications. “White flight is not just a social change but a political one,” he said. “Historically whites didn’t want to live in the city with black people, but the decrease of white flight suggests a greater willingness to live with them today. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that whites moving into predominantly black neighborhoods have a significant level of contact with their black neighbors. There is a lot of unrealized potential there.”
Owen Gutfreund, assistant professor of history and urban studies at Barnard, said that though the ACS broke its survey into communities, it is difficult to analyze changes within such small populations. “It is problematic to talk about Morningside Heights as a neighborhood subject to these more generalizable urban processes as it is too small a unit of analysis,” he said. “To understand changes in Morningside Heights, you really must look at three broader units of analysis: the Upper West Side, West Harlem, which includes Manhattanville, and New York City overall.”
Gutfreund also cautioned that the numbers may not explain the more nuanced aspects of urban change. “The term ‘white flight’ is a widely misused and misunderstood oversimplification of a much more complicated set of metropolitan changes,” Gutfreund said. “The term implies a primacy of racial factors, when in fact there are numerous other important causes of urban abandonment.”
Lydia Wileden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAGS: community board 9, Race
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It's my opinion that the cause of white flight is due to crime, not the color of one's skin. Perhaps crime is down in the are and white people are returning.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) December 4th, 2007 @ 8:58pm
"Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that whites moving into predominantly black neighborhoods have a significant level of contact with their black neighbors. There is a lot of unrealized potential there.”
Huh...with the anti-white, anti-"gentrification" commitees giving their warm "welcome" it's hard to imagine why that would be? Also observe Gutfreund's statement that it's the job of whites to contact their neighbors but not the other way around. I'm sure the black population will start to see the "unrealized potential" of their new white neighbors soon enough, and then those white liberals will start realizing the suburbs aint so bad afterall!
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) December 4th, 2007 @ 7:53am