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1968 Inverted: Why the 'Back-to-the-City' Movement is 'White Flight' in Reverse

Calling 'white infill' the new 'white flight', Richey Piiparinen argues that urban thinkers need to consider whether the back-to-the-city trend is exacerbating inequity and segregation.
July 10, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"While debatable, there appears to be a back-to-the-city trend, particularly the inner-core areas of America’s largest and most powerful cities," says Piiparinen. He examines the racial and economic composition of those "moving into these 'spiky' urban cores" and finds increases in the percentage of white residents in many downtown zip codes. 

"For example, much of Chicago’s core gains comes from the downtown zip code 60654, in which 11,499 (77%) of the area’s 14,868 incoming residents were white, and where the median family income is $151,000. Other zip codes in Chicago’s core share similar proportions of growth, such as 60605, with 70% of its 12,423 new residents being white. Contrast this with a 5% growth rate for blacks."

Furthermore, recognizing the growing wealth gap between blacks and whites, he argues that, "the people of means wanting to be in cities is largely the same people who always had means, and they are simply taking their means from one geography to the next; that is, from the suburban development to the urban enclave."

Piiparinen faults city proponents for not adequately addressing "the risk of racial and economic homogeneity at the hands of the 'back-to-the-city' movement." And he concludes that, "[r]e-urbanism, or specifically the opportunities it creates for equitable reinvestment, should be respected for what it is: a chance to move forward from a divided, destructive past."

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Published on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 in New Geography
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