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March 17, 2016 -- When blacks move in, whites move out. It's called "white flight" and it's been part of American demographic shifts since the early 20th century. 

A study reveals that whites didn't flee to the suburbs because none existed. Rather, they fled from encroaching and increasing black populations. 

From The Washington Post: 

"If you want to understand the origins of segregation in the U.S., you have to look at this period between 1900 and 1930," says Allison Shertzer, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied detailed, digitized census forms from that era with Pittsburgh colleague Randall P. Walsh.

In their new research, they studied how the arrival of blacks in 10 northern cities at the time influenced white behavior. Over the course of the first three decades after the turn of the century, coinciding with the start of the Great Migration of blacks out of the South, this pattern accelerated: As blacks arrived in northern neighborhoods, more whites left. By the 1920s, there were more than three white departures for every black arrival.

Shertzer and Walsh, who tried to account for other reasons why neighborhood populations shifted, believe this was causal. "Whites left the neighborhood as a result of blacks arriving," Shertzer says, "not for other reasons."

The suburbs effectively didn't exist at the time, so whites were leaving these neighborhoods for other neighborhoods in the city. That makes this earlier form of white flight even more striking; their new homes didn't have lower taxes or better school districts, factors that complicated the motivations of later generations of whites.

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