The limits of out-migration for the black middle class

Mary E Pattillo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Certain developments contributed to disinterest in research on the environs of the black middle class in favor of intensive study of the black urban poor. One example is the theory that civil rights housing policies allowed middle class African Americans to leave black communities. Using historical sources, 1990 census data, and ethnographic evidence from Chicago, I offer a reinterpretation of this out-migration hypothesis. Growth in the number of middle class African Americans has increased the size of their residential enclaves, and thus the physical distance between classes. I also find historically continuous patterns of out-migration circumscribed by racial residential segregation, which ensures the constant reincorporation of black middle class neighborhoods within the black ghetto. Making the black middle class a visible part of black communities highlights its spatial connection to the black poor, which is contrasted with the ability of the white middle class to distance itself from urban poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-241
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Urban Affairs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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