"Those Who Left"
Although Austin is one of the fastest growing major cities in the United States, its African American population has been in steady decline for nearly two decades. African Americans were indeed the only racial group in Austin to experience an absolute numerical decline between 2000 and 2010–a decade of otherwise remarkable growth in the city’s general population. Moreover, no other fast-growing major city experienced a decline in African Americans during that same decade. What are the main reasons behind this loss? And how are those who have resettled outside of the city fairing?
- ‘Black flight” is a myth. The data reveal that African Americans did not choose to move out of Austin to take advantage of new opportunities that awaited them in the suburbs. They left because of growing inequalities they faced within the city of Austin.
- The majority of all respondents—56 percent—stated that they moved out of Austin because the cost of living within the city limits, particularly residential housing prices, was unaffordable. “Unaffordable housing” was the leading reason respondents gave for why they moved out of Austin.
- Twenty-four percent of all respondents claimed that they moved out of Austin because they were dissatisfied with the quality of education their children were receiving in East Austin public schools, which are among the most segregated in the city. These respondents believed their children would receive a better education if they went to school districts outside of Austin. “Better schools” was the second leading reason respondents gave for why they moved out of Austin.
- Compounding the discrimination they faced in the housing market and schools, an additional 16 percent of all respondents claimed that they also moved out because of the institutional racism they experienced in Austin. They described Austin as “unwelcoming” to African Americans.
- On average, respondents claimed that they had better access to health clinics, grocery stores and quality restaurants, as well as public amenities such as parks and swimming pools, when they lived within the city of Austin compared to their access to these things within their current residential areas. However, their answers skewed sharply depending on whether they moved north or east of the city.
- The majority of all respondents claimed that their relationships with neighbors were stronger when they lived in the city of Austin compared to their relationships with their current neighbors in residential areas outside of Austin.
- The majority of respondents claimed that their relationship with the police is more positive in their current residencies outside of Austin compared to their past relationships with Austin police.
- On average, 43 percent of all respondents said they would move back to Austin under the right conditions. Thirty-seven percent said they would not move back under any circumstances. (Those who answered “maybe” account for the balance).
- On average 45 percent of all respondents identified strongly with the statement “I was pushed out of Austin.” However, this percentage climbed to 57 percent for those who moved out between 1999 and 2009—the decade in which Austin experienced an absolute numerical decline in African Americans.
"East avenue" is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Austin community residents and civic leaders who are Committed to documenting and analyzing the past and present of racial and economic segregation in Austin, Texas, particularly as it affects the city’s longstanding African American community. Its goal is to produce new Research to help shape initiatives—both legislative and grassroots—that will bring greater racial and economic equality to the city.
About The Authors
Bisola Falola, M.A., is PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas, Austin. Her current research examines social and spatial mobility through the lives of urban minority youth. This research, which spans both the Global North and South, explores how particular places take on significance in shaping young people’s transitions to adulthood and life course trajectories. Her dissertation examines how the stigma of living in a marginalized neighborhood becomes formative as it influences and weakens young people’s ability to maintain high aspirations and consistently believe in upwardly mobile adulthoods. Bisola is also interested in conducting policy relevant urban research and works on issues related to socioeconomic and ecological gentrification and urban educational inequity.
Eric Tang is an Assistant Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and faculty member in the Center for Asian American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. A former community organizer, he has previously published studies of race and urban unrest in New York City and post-Katrina New Orleans. His current research focuses on the past and present of racial segregation in Austin, Texas, paying particular attention the gentrification-driven displacements of the city’s longstanding African American residents.
Chelsi West Ohueri, M.A. sociocultural anthropology, is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UT Austin. Her research focuses on issues of race, belonging, and place, and her dissertation examines these social phenomena in Albania and parts of southeastern Europe. Her research has received funding from such entities as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Fulbright program, and the International Research and Exchanges Board. More recently, she has begun research surrounding race, place, and health in East Austin, where one of her primary concerns is health disparities.