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Black residents are increasingly departing large U.S. cities, a shift that could affect African-American political power

Flight Could Dilute and Shift Black Political Power

by Dorothy Rowley



 according to data from the first results of the U.S. Census Bureau’s population census.

The population of the nation’s capital now exceeds 600,000 residents, 53 percent of whom are African American, and there has been a gain of nearly 30,000 new Washingtonians since a decade ago. But, according to Census Bureau data released Dec. 21 and cited by {The Washington Post,} much of the increase is due to an ongoing influx of Hispanics and Whites moving into the city—a change brought on by a gentrification process that has forced many African-Americans out of city neighborhoods.

According to the {Post,} Blacks in the District face the prospect of being a population minority in the city by the time of the next census in 2020.

Implications are similar in Maryland. The population grew by almost 480,000 residents, yet the Black population remained at 29 percent. Whites make up only 57 percent of Maryland’s residents—a 5 percent decrease from the last census. That leaves Hispanics, who account for only 7 percent of the state’s population but fueled 40 percent of the state’s growth since 2000, according to Census data.

Audrey Singer, senior fellow for the non-profit public policy Brookings Institution, said Maryland’s population increase might have to do with a “fairly stable economy in the state, buoyed by the capital region and also the draw of suburban counties around Washington and Baltimore, most notably Prince George’s, but also Montgomery and Howard.”

In New York, the number of Blacks leaving the city has exceeded the departure of Whites since 2000, and as a result, that city has now suffered an overall decline in Black population for the first time in history, according to GBM News.
The {Post} also reported that, according to census data, Los Angeles has seen its Black population shrink from around 18 percent in 1970 to 9.9 percent four years ago.

Though a growing number of people are seeking out warmer climates, census results show that Blacks appear to be returning to family roots in the South or relocating to suburbs near the cities they are leaving.

The population shift could dilute Black political power, which first grew from the concentration of Blacks in major urban jurisdictions, according to GBM News.
“African Americans are a large part of the population in several of the states that are losing representatives,” said Margaret Simms, a fellow at The Urban Institute in Washington. “But they are also a large part of the population in several states that will gain seats.”

The results of this year’s population count reveal that, as of this past spring, the United States is a nation of more than 308 million people. At the same time, America’s once staggering population growth also dipped to its lowest in seven decades.

But not to worry, according to a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Population Reference Bureau. “We have a youthful population that will create population momentum through a large number of births, relative to deaths, for years to come,” bureau spokesman Mark Mather told MSNBC.com.

An updated, specific count of the country’s African-American population will not be available until February, when the Census Bureau will release demographic data by states on a rolling basis so their governments can start the local redistricting process, according to a Census spokeswoman.
“The figures we released on Dec. 21 were only state and national population numbers. We haven’t released any other information and it won’t be released until next year,” said spokeswoman Malkia McLeod. “We don’t have numbers yet for any one group specifically, we just have an overall population number. The rest of that information will be rolling out throughout next year.”

AFRO reporter Shernay Williams contributed to this report.

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