Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

"White Flight"

(see also demographics, Dominant Culture USA)

thanks to

"White flight" is a term first used in the mid-20th century to describe a demographic movement in the USA where middle class whites react to the appearance of racial minorities in their urban neighborhoods by moving to suburbs or exurbs. Rationales for white flight are often framed in terms of crime, property values, and school integration, quality, or "discipline."

Especially after World War 2 (mid-20c), middle-class white Americans flee cities for suburbs.

Since 1980s, as suburbs become more multicultural, whites move further out from suburbs to "exurbs" (e.g., Santa Fe or Lake Jackson relative to Houston). Politics re-align, with cities liberal, exurbs conservative, and suburbs mixed.

A counter-trend: in recent decades, some middle-class and professional whites, particularly the childless and "empty-nesters," move back to cities--a process called "gentrification"--which cultivates the "knowledge class" of post-industrial workers in information technology, alternative energy, etc., and helped revive some downtowns.

Web sources:

"an occurrence in which many white people move out of a city as more and more people of other races move in + the departure of whites from places (as urban neighborhoods or schools) increasingly or predominantly populated by minorities" (

"White flight is a term that originated in the United States, starting in the mid-20th century, and applied to the large-scale migration of whites of various European ancestries from racially-mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions." (

Related concepts:

"redlining" in real estate business

bible academies--religion inseparable from ethnicity?

White Flight also occurs on continental scale

  • Coastal cities like Houston, LA, NYC, Boston, Atlanta are increasingly diverse or multicultural.

  • Working-class & middle-class whites move to interior white-majority states like Idaho, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kansas. (Their children, however, may leave low-employment conservative interior for higher-employment coastal cities.)

  • Politics re-align: Coasts become more liberal (except in Old Confederacy and exurbs), while interior states like Kansas and Iowa become more conservative.

Relevance to immigrant literature:

These are all migration patterns that respond to the stresses of other migration patterns. One way and another, Americans keep moving.