The last 30 years have been a period of significant Black migratory behavior in the US. The most prominent domestic relocation flow has been southward—a pattern now called the New Great Migration—toward cities and towns in Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia. However, not all Black migration has been across state lines. As within-state movement of Black households intensifies in California, we explore how the municipalities receiving an influx of Black residents compare to those experiencing an exodus with respect to quality-of-life metrics.
To best be able to harness equity- and stability-shaping opportunities, lessen burdens, and support the creation of communities of belonging, policymakers need to gain a rich understanding of this period of Black migration in California. We contribute to bringing this moment into focus by comparing readily available data related to income, housing affordability, education, employment, transportation, green space accessibility, and physical health across a series of case studies from Southern, Central, and Northern California. We look at how these metrics vary across neighboring counties, select cities with fast-changing Black populations, and across Black and non-Black communities.
We find that Black Californians are moving into areas with lower average housing costs largely typified by higher rates of physical inactivity (contributed to by less walk-friendly built environments, less access to parks, and fewer active transportation options), higher poverty and unemployment rates, and lower levels of education attainment than the areas from which they are relocating. We then discuss both the worrisome and potentially positive implications of these trends and offer policy recommendations at the state, regional, county, and local levels centered around the following themes: supporting housing cost relief programs and decreasing housing market pressures, committing to poverty alleviation by fostering a sustainable workforce, and investing in public health and wellness.