Do Blacks Leave Other Blacks Behind?: Crack Cocaine Markets and Black Flight

Takuma Kamada

Research shows that violence traps disadvantaged minorities in high crime areas and induces white flight. This study builds up on this line of research and examines the effects of the crack epidemic in the mid-1980s on population flight. The study uses decennial census data from 1970 to 2010 and exploits both spatial and temporal variation in the emergence of crack cocaine across metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). It finds that crack emergence increased black suburbanization, but not white suburbanization. Black flight is pronounced among middle-class blacks, but not among working-class blacks. The study then finds that black lethal violence that involves a great level of uncertainty— one associated with guns, robbery, and committed against strangers—have positive effects on black flight. Lastly, crack emergence has enduring effects. MSAs that experienced the crack epidemic two decades ago have higher black suburbanization today than MSAs that did not experience it.

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 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization