America's suburbs over the last few decades have been shaking off their predominately middle-class white stereotype. These are among the findings contained in a new report issued by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity. In many cities, as reported by The Atlantic Cities' Myron Orfield, "suburban communities are now at the cutting edge of racial, ethnic and even political change in America," seeing large population shifts from predominately white to, increasingly, non-white.
What does this mean for America's suburbs? "Integrated suburbs represent some of the nation's greatest hopes and its gravest challenges," says Orfield, "...the rapid changes seen in suburban communities, suggests a degree of declining racial bias and at least the partial success of fair housing laws. Yet the fragile demographic stability in these newly integrated suburbs – as well as the rise of poor virtually non-white suburbs – presents serious challenges for local, state and federal governments." Increasing numbers of near-total non-white suburbs, for instance, can still face illegal discrimination. Often, these communities can face challenges more intractable than their central city cohorts.
As Orfield notes, "In America, integrated communities have a hard time staying integrated for extended periods." Thus, ensuring that America's newly diverse suburbs remain diverse, and don't reach a so-called "tipping" point towards resegregation, remains tricky. "[I]t does not happen by accident," states Orfield, "[i]t is the product of clear race-conscious strategies, hard work, and political collaboration among local governments."