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Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Making the Comeback

Reversing the Downward Trajectory of African American Middle Neighborhoods in Legacy Cities 

Published: March 2021

Author(s): Alan Mallach (Senior Fellow)

Black urban middle neighborhoods are facing an existential crisis. In city after city, the middle neighborhoods that face the greatest challenges and have seen the sharpest declines are those largely occupied by African-American families. Compared to other middle neighborhoods, these neighborhoods are not only declining more sharply but are seeing the least benefit from their cities’ revival.

To understand what was happening in Black middle neighborhoods in legacy cities, we looked at trends from 2000 to 2018 in neighborhoods in six cities – Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. We looked at neighborhoods (census tracts) where the median household income in 2000 was the equivalent of $40,000 to $75,000 in 2018 dollars, and where the population was at least 80 percent African American. We looked at social, economic and housing market trends in these neighborhoods, and compared them with predominately white and racially mixed neighborhoods in the same cities that were in the same income range in 2000. We found:

  • 70 percent (240) of these Black middle neighborhoods had moved down economically
  • 29 percent (100) of these Black middle neighborhoods were still middle income
  • Black middle neighborhoods as a whole are losing population, homeownership, and married couples raising families
  • Black middle neighborhoods are seeing an increase in vacant houses

While in many cities, white and racially mixed neighborhoods were struggling as well, in every city, in every category, the Black middle neighborhoods were doing worse.

This report highlights strategies for Black middle neighborhood revival related to three key aspects:

1. The importance of homebuyers and homeowners
2. The fundamental role of neighborhood stability to the success of any neighborhood strategy?
3. The importance to target markets

Published: March 2021

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