White flight

White flight or white exodus[1][2][3] is the sudden or gradual large-scale migration of white people from areas becoming more racially or ethnoculturally diverse.[4][5] Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, the terms became popular in the United States. They referred to the large-scale migration of people of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions. The term has more recently been applied to other migrations by whites, from older, inner suburbs to rural areas, as well as from the U.S. Northeast and Midwest to the milder climate in the Southeast and Southwest.[6][7][8] The term 'white flight' has also been used for large-scale post-colonial emigration of whites from Africa, or parts of that continent,[9][10][11][12][13] driven by levels of violent crime and anti-colonial state policies.[14]

Migration of middle-class white populations was observed during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s out of cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland, although racial segregation of public schools had ended there long before the Supreme Court of the United States' decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In the 1970s, attempts to achieve effective desegregation (or "integration") by means of busing in some areas led to more families' moving out of former areas.[15][16] More generally, some historians suggest that white flight occurred in response to population pressures, both from the large migration of blacks from the rural Southern United States to urban cities of the Northern United States and the Western United States in the Great Migration and the waves of new immigrants from around the world.[17] However, some historians have challenged the phrase "white flight" as a misnomer whose use should be reconsidered. In her study of West Side in Chicago during the post-war era, historian Amanda Seligman argues that the phrase misleadingly suggests that whites immediately departed when blacks moved into the neighborhood, when in fact, many whites defended their space with violence, intimidation, or legal tactics.[18] Leah Boustan, Professor of Economics at Princeton, attributes white flight both to racism and economic reasons.[19]

The business practices of redlining, mortgage discrimination, and racially restrictive covenants contributed to the overcrowding and physical deterioration of areas with large minority populations. Such conditions are considered to have contributed to the emigration of other populations. The limited facilities for banking and insurance, due to a perceived lack of profitability, and other social services, and extra fees meant to hedge against perceived profit issues, increased their cost to residents in predominantly non-white suburbs and city neighborhoods.[20][21] According to the environmental geographer Laura Pulido, the historical processes of suburbanization and urban decentralization contribute to contemporary environmental racism.[22]


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