The Myth of the Black Middle Class Exodus: Where the Black Middle Class Has Lived, Invested, and Engaged From 1960 to 2015

Junia Howell , University of Pittsburgh
Candice Robinson, University of Pittsburgh

Scholars argue that after the 1968 Fair Housing Act the Black middle class increasingly moved out of impoverished Black communities leaving them with fewer social and economic resources which in turn compounded the negative effects of generational poverty, criminal behavior, and civic unrest. Empirical substantiations of this claim rely on data collected between 1970 and 1990. Although part of the story, this limited timeframe cannot illuminate how the Civil Rights changed residential patterns or the larger historical trajectories. Embracing a broader historical prospective, the present study empirically examines Blacks residential patterns from 1960 to 2015. Using the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series’ National Historical Geographic Information System, we find changes between 1970 and 1990 are not representative of larger trends. Black middle class residents are more integrated into Black communities in 2015 than 1960. We discuss the implications of these results for social theory and public policy.

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 Presented in Session 56. Racial Inequality in the United States