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Minorities and the 'Slumburbs'

Despite bleak forecasts, families of color are finding more equitable conditions in suburbs. But the type of suburb matters.
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Maureen Still/Flickr

The history goes something like this: White families left inner cities in droves during the white-flight era of the 1950s and 60s. Now they are returning to—have returned to—the metro centers that their grandparents once called home. Families of color called these inner cities home during decades of depopulation. Now they, in turn, are leaving for—have already left for—the suburbs. Drawn by the promise of safer schools, larger homes, and better lives, or alternatively, pushed out by rising property taxes, it doesn't matter: What minorities found in the suburbs was the subprime mortgage crisis, followed by the collapse of the global economy.

That's the theory behind "slumburbia," the notion that the dark conditions that once characterized the Inner City are following minorities as they pursue the American Dream to the suburbs. Gawker's Hamilton Nolan used the label to explain rising suburban poverty. The New York Times's Timothy Egan applied the term to the Inland Empire.