When Mark Wells moved to the Dallas area last year, he had plenty of company — and not just because his three sisters had settled there ahead of him. The Kansas native had lived for nearly 20 years in Southern California, building up his career in technology. But the state’s long run of double-digit unemployment finally convinced him to listen to his sisters and move to Texas.
He has no regrets. “I told my friends in California, ‘You got to get out of there,’” he says. “There are no jobs and the cost of living is outrageous.”
Whether or not Wells can convince his friends, he’s already part of a much larger trend. Plenty of other African-Americans have decided to move to the South in recent years. The 2010 Census was the first one in decades that showed more blacks living in the South than in the North. For most of the 20th century, blacks migrated out of the South en masse, finding new jobs and new lives in places like Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago. Now, the Great Migration has reversed. In the first decade of the 21st century, 75 percent of African-American population growth occurred south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the highest that number has been in decades. Meanwhile, states such as Michigan and Illinois saw absolute declines in their black populations.
As in Atlanta, the north-to-south and city-to-suburb trends among blacks have been reshaping the face of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which gained some 233,000 African-American residents between 2000 and 2010 — the most of any metro area in the country, aside from Atlanta. Many of the former “white flight” suburbs south of Dallas now have populations that are majority black, or close to it. The faster-growing suburbs to the north are still predominantly white, but black populations there have more than doubled. Throughout the area, there are numerous “firsts” in government office — first African-American mayors and district attorneys and assistant police chiefs. Aside from the political changes these population shifts are starting to bring about, there have been implications for a broad range of policy areas, including housing, education, transportation and public safety. While the suburbs may be turning into a mecca for the black middle class, parts of the city remain bleak centers of African-American life, racked by poverty and poor schools. Some of those parts are losing black population.