More Live in Diverse U.S. Suburbs Than White Ones

More Live in Diverse U.S. Suburbs Than White Ones
Diverse customers at a Costco Wholesale Corp. store. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

For the first time, more Americans are living in racially and ethnically diverse suburbs than in predominantly white ones, according to a study released today.

Those mixed communities also are growing faster than their mostly white counterparts in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, said a report by the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity. The study, which defined diverse communities as those with 20 percent to 60 percent minority groups, noted a decline in racial bias amid an influx of Asians and Hispanics, the nation’s two fastest-growing racial and ethnic groups.

Twenty-eight percent of people in major metro areas live in mostly white suburbs and exurbs, a decrease from the 35 percent of Americans who lived in such places in 2000, the report found. The population in diverse locations rose to 31 percent from 26 percent.

“There are just fewer white suburbs now,” Thomas Luce, the institute’s research director, said in a telephone interview.

The growth of integrated suburbs suggests a decline in bias and the partial success of fair-housing laws, the report said. Still, whites continue to move away from integrated suburbs and many of the communities become mostly minority, defined as places with more than 60 percent non-white residents, which tend to struggle more economically.

“The fragile demographic stability in these newly integrated suburbs, as well as the rise of poor virtually non-white suburbs, presents serious challenges for local, state and federal governments,” the report said.

Tipping Point

While the Census Bureau projects that white, non-Hispanic residents will drop from a clear majority to a plurality by 2042 in the U.S., the sustained growth in diverse suburbs isn’t assured. Communities that had at least 23 percent of minorities in 1980 were more likely to be mostly minority by 2005, the study said.

The study’s authors reported that minority suburbs of major metro areas included 20.1 million Americans, about 12 percent of the metro area population and an 82 percent increase from the 2000 population living in those communities.

The number of racially diverse suburbs in Chicago climbed to 123 in 2010, a 52 percent increase from 2000. In New York, the number of diverse suburbs grew to 210, a 49 percent increase during the decade. The number rose to 68 in Dallas, a 42 percent jump. The 50 largest metro areas contain 60 percent of the U.S. population.

Growing Diversity

The Minnesota study found that 52.7 million Americans lived in 1,376 diverse suburbs, according to 2010 Census data. About 47.2 million lived in predominantly white suburbs. The study described the number of people in diverse communities as “substantial increases” from 2000, when 42 million people lived in 1,006 such suburbs, while 54 million were residents of mostly white suburbs.

Population growth was much higher in diverse suburbs during the decade, Myron Orfield, the institute’s director and co-author of the study, said in a telephone interview. The study found diverse suburbs grew 15 percent in that period, faster than any other type of community except predominantly white exurbs. The study defined exurbs as places where less than 10 percent of land was urbanized; they generally began the decade with a small population base.

The study also found that job growth was among the highest in diverse suburbs from 2003 to 2008. The number of jobs in those communities grew by 9 percent, three times the rate of predominantly white suburbs and surpassed only by the 14 percent growth registered in exurban communities.

“Many suburban job centers -- the most important source of job growth in modern American metropolitan areas -- are located in diverse suburbs because those diverse suburbs are often located near core areas and along interstate highways,” the report said.

Editors: Flynn McRoberts, Mark McQuillan

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