New York City’s black population has dropped 9% since 2000, with the exodus apparently accelerating after the eight disastrous de Blasio years. Advocates and officials wonder why, but there’s nothing unique about it: Black Americans mainly want the same things all Americans want.
The decline has been steepest among young black New Yorkers: The city’s number of black children and teens cratered by a fifth from 2010 to 2020. That means families are heading out — and many heading south.
Partly, it’s the city’s insane housing market, which is brutal on growing families. All the rent laws benefit the “haves”: people who don’t need to move. Hoping your kids can have a room of their own? The median rent for an available two-bedroom apartment in New York City is $4,859; in Atlanta, $2,450.
Education is another reason to leave: Most public schools in minority neighborhoods are disasters. That’s why there’s such an enormous appetite for public charter schools — but the teachers unions (more “haves”) use their political power to prevent the charter sector from growing to meet the demand. Our way or the highway, says the United Federation of Teachers, and parents determined to do better for their kids hit the road.
Crime, too, has an outsize effect on black New Yorkers. They’re 23% of the city population, but 67% of homicide victims. For rapes, it’s around 38%; felonious assault, about 46%. So rising crime means rising black departures.
But this is more than just the “de Blasio effect.” It also reflects the experience of every ethnic group that’s ever been a big part of the Big Apple: The Irish, Italians and Jews all largely moved away; why would blacks be any different?
Remember, New York City’s black population (like other northern cities’) was swelled by the Great Migration — people looking for prosperity in a city on the rise.
Now they’re leaving. And it shows that black Americans, for all the ways their history might be unique, have real economic and social agency in the face of city policies that don’t work for them.
As for the black politicians worried that “their” voters are moving away: Your best hope is to work for what all New Yorkers want, a sane housing market, good schools and lower crime — and recognize that what you’ve been doing on those fronts isn’t working for your own people.