The Atlanta skyline sits beyond Turner Field.  (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Atlanta skyline sits beyond Turner Field. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

A series of new charts compiled by the Washington Post looks at where Americans moved to between 2012 and 2016.


At first blush, the numbers, which were pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent statistics, look fairly predictable—New York City, the largest metropolitan area in the United States, drew in the most newcomers, while other large cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles continued to make gains.


But where things got really interesting is when the Post a) broke the numbers down by race and b) controlled for population size. Then a very different picture, along with some very clear patterns, emerges.

If you’re a numbers nerd—and one who loves demographics in particular—there’s a lot to parse. Here are some of the major takeaways:

The New Great Migration Is Real

When adjusted for population size, the top 10 destinations for black Americans were all Southern cities. The top destination was Atlanta, followed by Virginia Beach, Va., at No. 2 and Columbia, S.C., at No. 3. Richmond, Va., and Jackson, Miss., round out the top 5.


The Post notes that Virginia Beach draws in a fair number of new arrivals each year because it’s a military town—it also cracked the top 10 for new non-Hispanic white arrivals.

Augusta, Ga., was the sixth-most-popular destination, per capita, for black people between 2012 and 2106, followed by Durham, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; and New Orleans.


The Top 10 Destinations Don’t Necessarily Match Where Black Americans Are Doing Best Economically

You’d expect some overlap between where black Americans are doing best economically and which cities attract them—and there is. Five of the cities that Forbes listed as being places where black people are flourishing economically also appear on the Washington Post’s list of top 10 areas black people moved to in the last five years.


Looking at raw numbers, Atlanta remained the most popular destination and was the city where black people also did the best economically. Washington, D.C., which tied for Atlanta in terms of economic status for black residents, also attracted a lot of new black residents, as did Houston, Miami and Baltimore.


But half of the top 10 cities black people moved to in the last five years were not mentioned on Forbes’ list: These were New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago and Virginia Beach.

White People Love Colorado

Some broad regional trends emerged when the Post controlled for population size and broke down the results by ethnicity. Hispanics, for example, favored cities in the South and Southwest more so than other demographics. Asians showed clear preferences for cities on the West Coast, mostly in California.


And white people love them some Colorado.

As the Post notes, the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area is the 21st largest in the U.S.—but is the seventh most popular for white people. And once you control for population, Colorado Springs and Denver are the second- and third-most-popular destinations, respectively, for white people.


Yes, There Are Black People in Boise. And More Are Coming

While cities like Atlanta and Denver continue to recruit populations that look similar to the ones they’ve had, other cities are seeing substantial increases in ethnic groups that haven’t traditionally lived there.


Boise, Idaho’s black population increased almost 20 percent between 2012 and 2016. Meanwhile, Honolulu’s white population increased nearly 15 percent. Virginia Beach saw its Hispanic population increase 15 percent, while the Asian population of Durham rose by more than 20 percent in the same time frame.

The Post notes that low population numbers, like in Boise, could skew these percentage increases, but also says that the data reveals where new faces “are having the biggest effect on a group’s presence.”


The Southern City That Whites, Asians and Blacks Are Flocking To

What will be striking about these numbers to some people, particularly once you factor in population size, is how distinct these migration patterns are. But a few cities stand out for having broader appeal.


Durham, for instance, placed among the top 10 most popular (per capita) cities for Asians, whites and black people. D.C. also placed in the top 10 for Asians and blacks. Denver was popular among Hispanics and non-Hispanic white people, while Virginia Beach placed in the top 10 for black and white people.

The Post doesn’t give reasons for these movements, and there’s a lot to extrapolate depending on which numbers you look at. Still, the numbers paint a vivid picture of how different racial groups are moving throughout the country and where to—and could have important social and political consequences as the makeup of our nation’s cities continues to change.


Read more at the Washington Post.

Staff writer, The Root.

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