ERIC GIVENS grew up on the southern edge of Los Angeles, attended
the elementary school his grandfather did, and would have liked to
stay in the area where his friends and family still live.
Instead he recently moved to Victorville, 90 minutes away in the
high California desert.
"I can't afford to pay $3,000 a month on a new house," says the
young construction worker. "The air is also a little cleaner, and it
is not as crowded."
Mr. Givens is part of a growing exodus of blacks from Los Angeles
that mirrors a nationwide trend.
Coming at a time when Asians and Hispanics are arriving in large
numbers, the black "flight" presages dramatic shifts in the ethnic
mix of the nation's second-largest city - with important political,
economic, and social ramifications.
"It has enormous implications," says Dr. James Johnson, director
of the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty at the University of
California Los Angeles (UCLA), who has studied the outmigration of
blacks. "We are talking about a total restructuring of the black
The exodus from South Los Angeles, which holds the largest
concentration of blacks in the western United States, is being
driven by a variety of forces.
Some, like Mr. Givens, are fleeing to escape escalating housing
prices. Others want to avoid the congestion, crime, and gang
activity in the city. Some have been unable to find jobs. Many have
climbed up the economic ladder and seek better neighborhoods
Forty percent of the blacks who left Los Angeles County over a
five-year period went elsewhere in California, according to a recent
study by Dr. Johnson and Curtis Roseman, a geography professor at
the University of Southern California. Many of those are young
middle-class families who moved to San Bernardino and Riverside
counties, east of here, seeking cheaper homes and better schools.
A high percentage, though, also moved out of state, mainly to
Texas, Louisiana, and other parts of the South. This included a
large number of blacks who returned to states where they were born.
Some, says Johnson, are single welfare mothers or elderly who
could not make it here anymore or who did not want to and moved back
Although the study was based on 1980 census data, the authors say
the pattern of black migration has likely only accelerated in the
past few years. Another study, this one by the US Census Bureau,
recently showed that more blacks migrated out of California and
Western states in the 1980s than migrated in. …