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San Francisco’s black population plummets

Associated Press
Monday June 18, 2001

(AP) — A major drop in the city’s black population took place in the last decade reducing its numbers by 15 percent. 

More than 1 in 7 black residents left in the 1990s — the highest rate of decline of the nation’s 50 most populous cities, a 2000 Census data analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle revealed. 

Experts say the trend nationally is for blacks to move to the suburbs but locally the high housing prices are driving lower-income residents out. 

Black families in San Francisco are three times more likely to live below the poverty level, according to a 1999 Census Bureau survey of 1 out of 33 household in the city. 

Another reason for the sudden change is people who move in search of stronger black communities. 

“San Francisco was a cosmopolitan city but I didn’t see enough black people around even then,” said Jule Anderson, a former school board member and 30-year Richmond District resident, who moved to Atlanta in 1991. “I wanted to be around more black people.” 

In the last 20 years, demographers have traced an increase of blacks moving from the western United States to the South. In the 1990s, census records show, the South gained more then 3 million black residents, seeing that population grow more rapidly than in any other part of the country. 

But not all the blacks who leave San Francisco head to the South. Demographer Hans Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California noted that cities on the outer edges of the Bay Area, such as Vallejo, Antioch and Tracy, have seen the number of black residents grow in great numbers. 

Then, there are those residents who improve their economic status and abandon the inner-city neighborhoods. 

“If you move up and get a better job, are you going to want to stay in the Bayview, where the only bread you can buy is Wonder Bread?” said San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell. “No. When people do a little better, they say, ’I’m out of here.”’ 

The number of blacks who live in the city now is 60,500. If those who listed themselves as being of more than one race in the 2000 census are included the number increase to 67,000. This is a sharp decline compared to the 1970s, when the black population reached a peak of 96,000.