Austin’s African-American population is shrinking, study shows

Victoria Recer

The black population in Austin is on the decline, as revealed in a new study from an African and African Diaspora Studies professor.

 

UT professor Eric Tang, author of the study, attributes the dispersion to historical segregation giving way to modern gentrification. The number of African-Americans in Austin decreased by 5.4 percent from 2000-2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Tang’s research found Austin’s black community is vacating to neighboring cities in favor of cheaper living, with 56 percent of respondents citing the affordability of suburban living.

 

UT English professor Lars Hinrichs said this shift affects the overall dynamic of the city.

 

“The rapid decline of the African-American part of Austin’s population is a great cultural loss to the city,” Hinrichs said. “Austin’s cultural and linguistic profile is becoming less diverse.”

 

Recent UT graduate Alexis Kyle said gentrification — when the influx of more affluent residents results in increased property values, displacing lower-income families and small businesses — plays a role in the marginalization of the black community.

“Austin is so cool and diverse, but at the same time, by [hipsters] moving in, they’re minimizing the diversity,” Kyle said.

Overcrowding was given as a reason for leaving by eight percent of African-Americans departing Austin. To avoid further emigration, there are steps that can be taken, Tang said.

 

“We need to make our public schools more equitable and less segregated,” Tang wrote in an email. “We [need to] create affordable housing in Austin — through land trusts, nonprofit housing organization and partnerships with developers. Finally, we need to find ways to help longstanding residents stay in their homes and historic neighborhoods by alleviating the pressure placed on them.”

Rhetoric and writing junior Vanessa Martinez said she fears the absence of Austin’s black population, which is predicted to be only five percent in decades to come by the city’s official website, will lead to future discrimination.

“If they [African Americans] would resurface in Austin after their disappearance, there could be a negative impact towards them,” Martinez said. “They could be treated like they just don’t belong due to the fact that they haven’t been around.”

Without creating inclusion within city boundaries, future generations will be left to pick up the pieces between residents and a city that no longer feels like home, Tang said.