(October 2000) In the first half of the 20th century, declining job prospects following the mechanization of agriculture and a hostile racial climate compelled African Americans to exit the South. Industrial growth in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit created new jobs and new opportunities for African Americans in northern states. The northward (and also westward) migration of African Americans continued in the immediate post-war decades, at the same time that many whites began to move in the opposite direction — to a newly reinvigorated South.

During the last decades of the century, the flow of African Americans reversed. Beginning with the deindustrialization of northern cities in the 1970s, blacks began to return to the South. The flow accelerated during the 1980s, and by the 1990s the South was experiencing a net increase in black migrants from all other regions. In southern metropolitan areas, large black middle-class populations provide opportunities for networking, outlets for political advocacy, and greater proximity to extended family.


Data are based on the 1980 decennial census and the March Current Population Survey (CPS).