New rural renaissance reflects 1990s version of white flight, according to U-M study

March 27, 1997
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

WASHINGTON—A new form of “white flight,” from both large cities and their surrounding suburbs, is creating a rural renaissance, according to a University of Michigan study presented here today (March 27) at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.

“The Ozzies and Harriets of the 1990s are bypassing the suburbs of big cities in favor of more livable, homogenous small towns and rural areas,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the U-M Population Studies Center who analyzed data from the U.S. Census and 1996 Current Population Survey, with Kao-Lee Liaw, a geographer at McMaster University.

While America’s largest metro areas continue to attract foreign immigrants, becoming more demographically diverse, they are losing domestic migrants.

“So far during the 1990s, Los Angeles and New York City have lost over 1 million domestic migrants each,” Frey reported.

In contrast, the greatest domestic migration gains during the 1990s occurred in predominately white, non-metropolitan areas, mainly in the Mountain states, south Atlantic states, Texas and the Ozarks.

According to Frey, the study findings suggest the emergence of a new demographic divide between large multi-ethnic metropolitan regions where growth depends on immigration and smaller metro and non-metro areas in other parts of the country where growth depends on mostly white domestic migrants.

“If these patterns continue, the old city-suburb distinction will soon be replaced by new spatial divisions,” Frey said. “The 1990s rural renaissance is on the forefront of this trend.”


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