The New White Flight?

Real interesting article at about a new Brookings Institution study. Its title: White flight? Suburbs lose young whites to cities. That it’s even possible that whites are moving into, rather than out of, central cities will come as a huge shock to many – particularly here in Michigan. Where far too many of us believe central cities are relics of a by-gone era. Think again!

Brookings using Census Bureau data from 2000-2008 found that the demographics of metropolitan areas across the country is changing dramatically. The new reality is that the suburbs are increasingly non white, poorer and older than the past. And, predominantly because young professionals now prefer to live in vibrant central city neighborhoods, central cites are whiter and better educated than before. The article quotes Brookings demographer William Frey: “A new image of urban America is in the making. What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation and a new city ambiance as an attraction.”  The data are clear. The most prosperous places in the country are big metropolitan areas anchored by a vibrant central city.

As readers of our work know, this is a central theme of our New Agenda for a New Michigan work. We have made the case repeatedly that: “Most college-educated households, like the rest of America, live in the suburbs. But a growing proportion of college-educated households – mainly those without children – are choosing to live in central-city neighborhoods. This is particularly true for the most mobile segment of the population – young college graduates without children. What is different over the past decade or so is that suburban growth in high-prosperity metropolitan areas is now accompanied by growth in their central cities. The evidence is that the most successful regions across the country are those where both the suburbs and central cities are prospering.”

For Michigan to prosper we need to align with, rather than resist, this trend. We need metro Detroit and to a lesser degree metro Grand Rapids and metro Lansing to be even more prosperous. And that requires a vibrant Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

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