College of Liberal Arts

IUPRA Study: African-Americans are Leaving Austin for More Affordable Housing and Better Schools

Wed, May 25, 2016
Photo by Roadsidepictures, Flickr.
Photo by Roadsidepictures, Flickr.

Heightened cost of living and dissatisfaction with public schools may have pushed many African-Americans out of Austin, limiting their access to public amenities and quality services, according to a survey by The University of Texas at Austin.

In a new report by the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA), African and African diaspora studies professor and IUPRA fellow Eric Tang and geography Ph.D. candidate Bisola Falola suggest that gentrification of historic African American neighborhoods may have pushed these residents out of the city and into the suburbs. 

The survey builds on a 2014 IUPRA study, which revealed a rapid 5.4 percent decline in African-American residents from 2000 to 2010 while the total population grew by 20.4 percent. During this time, Austin was the only major growing city in the country to see an absolute numerical decline in African-Americans, researchers said.

“There was a lot of speculation about why so many African-American families were leaving,” said Tang. “The best way to answer this question is to go to the source.”

Surveys were conducted between October 2015 and February 2016 at one of three historic churches in East Austin. Of the 36 men and 64 women surveyed, 15 percent of respondents left Austin prior to 1999, 53 percent left between 1999 and 2009, and 23 percent left between 2009 and present day. Forty-five respondents moved north of Austin and 49 respondents moved east of the city, and four respondents did not disclose their current locations.

According to the survey, 56 percent of all respondents left Austin due to “unaffordable housing,” or heightened costs of living, and 24 percent left Austin to seek out “better schools.” The majority of those who left between 2000 and 2010 were under 18, supporting the claim that schools were underserving children, Tang said. 

However, notwithstanding better schools, many respondents did not experience a higher quality of life after resettling outside of Austin proper. 

Those who moved east of Austin, where poverty is more prevalent, reported diminished access to key institutions and public amenities, such as health clinics and public parks. Ninety percent of respondents rated access to Austin health clinics as “good to very good,” but that number dropped to 49 percent for those who moved east. Those who moved north, however, believed their access to institutions and amenities improved.

An average of 45 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “I was pushed out of Austin.” This number climbed to 54 percent when accounting only for those who moved east.

“The socioeconomic pressures and inequalities that respondents noted are certainly not unique to African-Americans, but serve as powerful indicator of growing economic and racial segregation across the entire metro area.” Tang said. “Therefore any effort to make the city more affordable, to help longstanding residents stay in their beloved neighborhoods and to make public education more equitable will benefit all communities that are struggling to make it in Austin.”

According to the city’s “Top Ten Demographic Trends,” if African-Americans continue to leave the city for the suburbs, the racial group could soon represent less than 5 percent of the city’s population. Tang and Falola’s findings are outlined in an IUPRA report, “Those who left: Austin’s Declining African American Population.” 

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