In the News: “The end of suburban white flight”

“In the News” is a series where I highlight research and various articles from around the internet to showcase the shifts of missiological significance. 

If you read the last article, you saw that the Brookings institute had noted the shift of international communities to suburban areas. Well, here is more from the Brookings institute on the matter.

The end of suburban white flight

The Brookings Institute recently published a snippet of research concerning the continued diversification of America’s suburbs. You can check out the article here: “The end of suburban white flight.” According to the article, the classic notion that inner cities (a term that is on the way out) are diverse and suburbs are primarily made up of white people no longer holds true.

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Photo credit: James Vaughan on Flickr

Beginning during the 1920s, the United States experienced a period of urban decentralization where millions of Americans moved out of the urban center and developed the suburbs. This movement was overwhelmingly white, and was referred to as “white flight.” The suburbs became synonymous with a white, middle-class, lifestyle while the urban center was labeled the “inner city” and known as poor, high-crime, and primarily minority areas. However, the trend has shifted and diversity is flooding in to the suburbs.

Highlights from the article:

  • The white population is shrinking in the suburbs. “Nearly one-third of large metropolitan area suburbs experienced absolute declines in their white populations over the decade.”
  • And in areas where suburbs are growing, it is because of minority populations. “Yet in nearly 80 percent (78) of the 100 largest metropolitan suburbs, such as those of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, minorities accounted for most or all of the population gains. Suburbs will continue to grow in the future, but increasingly as a result of the rapid growth of the nation’s growing young minority families.”

Takeaways from the article:

  • Further proof that our world is changing around us.  For so long, the suburban ring has really been the home of American evangelicalism. Many churches popped up in the suburbs to provide a place of worship for the waves of middle-class people moving out of the city and in from rural areas for the last few generations. However, that is all changing now. Churches located in suburban settings will have to take this transition in to consideration or risk death.
  • Many who grew up in suburbs are choosing the city. Part of the reason for this shift is a renewed interest in the city. Millennials and baby boomers both are relocating back in to the urban center. For local churches, this move can be strategic. Suburban churches need to consider themselves a “send from” location and equip those moving back in to the urban center to engage it with the gospel. This could be church planting or joining alongside existing efforts. I fear what may happen is simply creating more churches in the urban setting to house all of those middle-class white people moving in. Instead, churches need to prepare those they send to engage the lostness they meet in the city.
  • Many of the new suburban neighbors are internationals. The new residents moving in to the suburbs are not a threat. They are an opportunity. Many will be internationals who find it easier to locate their community in the lower prices of a suburban area. Local suburban churches will have an unprecedented opportunity for mission because of these shifts. If you are in one of these areas, consider your responsibility to the Peoples Next Door.

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