Was PostWar Suburbanization “White Flight”? Evidence from the Black Migration
Residential segregation across jurisdiction lines generates disparities in public services and education by race. The distinctive American pattern -- in which blacks live in the center city and whites in the suburban ring -- was enhanced by black migration from the rural South from 1940-1970. I show that urban whites responded to this black influx by relocating to the suburbs and rule out the indirect effect on urban housing prices as a cause. Black migrants may have been attracted to areas already undergoing suburbanization. I create an instrument for changes in urban diversity that predicts black migrant flows from southern states and assigns these flows to northern cities according to established settlement patterns. The best causal estimates imply that "white flight" explains around 20 percent of suburban growth in the postwar period.