Why are Black Californians leaving the state?

Crowd at a 2021 Juneteenth celebration in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP Photo)

For the first time in decades, California’s Black population decreased, from 2.2 million people in 2000 to 2.1 million now. Also Black Californians have moved away from urban centers to places like the Inland Empire and Sacramento. 

Why? Researchers cite the impacts of gentrification and high housing costs, which have stalled the economic progress of Black Californians.

UCLA researchers found Black population declines in the state’s major metropolitan areas; nearly a quarter of the state’s Black residents now live outside such urban centers as San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Oakland, likely because of housing affordability issues. That figure is up from 17% of Black residents living outside urban centers in 2000.

These are key findings in a recent report published by the Black Policy Project, an initiative of the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. A previous report was commissioned in 2000 by the California Legislative Black Caucus and former California State Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, now mayor of Los Angeles.

The research shows Black homeownership declined by nearly 6% between 2000 and 2020, while other ethnic groups did not experience such a decrease. 

Despite such efforts as improving access to high school courses required for college entrance and reforming criminal justice, progress toward closing the racial gap in social and economic outcomes for white and Black Californians has been slow at 4% since 2000, the report says. 

“According to that rate of change, closing the racial gap between Black and white Californians would take over 248 years,” said Michael Stoll, faculty director of the Black Policy Project and author of the report.

Even though there have been improvements to the quality of life for Black communities in California, racial inequality stubbornly persists and may continue for centuries unless more is done, Stoll said.

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