Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Census: Blacks' mobility growing

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A University of Cincinnati study released Monday said black Ohioans are less racially isolated than a decade ago, with more of the most affluent moving to predominately white suburban counties.

        UC's Southwest Ohio Regional Data Center's study of newly released Census data also showed that African-Americans made up a greater percentage of Ohio's 15 largest counties, including Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont, than in 1990.

        And it concluded that blacks are less likely than in 1990 to live only in predominately black neighborhoods.

        “We still don't have perfect (diverse) neighborhoods, but we do have some improvement,” said Mark A. Carrozza, data center director. “I'd say what's driving these numbers is the economy. Those who could afford to leave the big cities did.”

        A measuring point for the study was an “isolation index” developed to pinpoint racial segregation. The index showed the typical Hamilton County black person lived in a neighborhood that was 60.2 percent black. That's down from 62.5 percent in 1990. Hamilton County's black population increased from 20.9 percent in 1990 to 23.4 percent in 2000.

        “The whole question on race relations in this community always boils down to understanding and communication,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “It's hard to do that when you're living in separate neighborhoods.”

        Mr. Carrozza said the study shows a drop in Southwest Ohio's racial isolation — either with blacks moving to mainly white neighborhoods or vice versa.

        The study points to a positive yet slowly developing trend of increased diversity in Hamilton County, said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church.

        Despite the change, Hamilton County remains the third-most racially segregated county in the state — trailing only Cuyahoga and Montgomery counties.

        Clermont's racial isolation was unchanged at 1.4 percent. Butler County's racial isolation dropped from 31.6 percent in 1990 to 22.9 percent in 2000. Warren County plummeted from 31.5 percent to 10.1 percent.

        Mr. Carrozza's conclusion: affluence, not skin color, was the main reason people moved to the suburbs.

        Forest Park City Manager Ray Hodges, who oversees one of Hamilton County's most racially balanced communities, said residents once feared his city's changing racial makeup.

        “Now that's one of our selling points,” Mr. Hodges said. “People come here because they want a diverse community that is sound economically.”


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