Straight Outta Compton

I recently ran across an interesting table showing population change in the major cities (core city only, not suburbs), as well as the change in the African-American population since 1990:

A few patterns stand out:

1.  Some of the older rust belt cities have seen major declines in both overall population and African-American population.

2. Many cities located near a coast have seen their overall population rise even as the black population declined sharply.  Many of these cities have very expensive real estate.

3.  Booming cities that are far from the coasts often have a fast-growing black population and moderate real estate prices.

I find these patterns to be interesting, as the coastal cities are often governed by progressives that are sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement. So why are blacks leaving those areas?

There could be numerous reasons, but one factor is surely NIMBY housing regulations.  These cities tend to have much more regulated housing markets than places such as Houston. And this goes beyond zoning; there are often very strict environmental rules that force builders to jump through numerous hoops to get a project approved.  These long delays are very costly to developers, and they actually hurt the environment.  More density means less sprawl.

The black population is declining especially rapidly in a number of cities in California.  Older readers may recognize the title of this post as a nod to a classic rap album from the 1980s, which itself referenced a black area in south central Los Angeles.  Take a look at a recent Zillow screenshot of Compton:

If a small ranch house in a high crime neighborhood costs roughly 1/2 million dollars, is it any wonder that working class blacks are moving straight out of Compton and toward more affordable metro areas?  Progressives in places like LA need to understand that it does no good to place a politically correct sign in your front yard if your housing policies are implicitly sending the message that “black lives matter . . . somewhere else”.

PS.  Be aware that overall metro area migration patterns may differ from the table above, especially for places (such as Atlanta) where the core city has only a small share of the metro population.  In many areas there’s been significant migration of blacks to the suburbs.  But at least in the case of California, even at the statewide level the share of blacks has fallen significantly since 1990.

PPS.  Don’t think in terms of whether poor and working class blacks could afford new construction in west LA.  That’s not the point.  Think about how a boom in new construction would reduce pressure to gentrify marginal neighborhoods such as Compton.  Many of LA’s expensive little ranch houses are teardowns, which will be replaced with new construction.