While I was poking around looking for some random bit of information about Edison, N.J.’s changing racial demographics, I came across Money Magazine’s 2009 list of “best places to live.” Since I was curious, I looked up the racial stats. Here are the top ten:*
|Peachtree City, GA||87.6|
|Lake St. Louis, MO||95.6|
*Most of these figures are from the 2000 Census, although a couple are from the more recent community survey.
The largest African American population in any of these cities was 6 percent; the largest Asian American population was 10.
Money has since released the 2010 list, and heading it is Eden Prairie, MN. (The 2000 Census says Eden Prairie is 90.7 percent white.)
So how did Money pick these places? Here’s the only qualifier that is overtly race-based:
Exclude places where the median family income is more than 200% or less than 85% of the state median and those more than 95% white.
If I read the FAQs correctly, no more than 191 small towns (population 50,000-300,000) were eliminated for being more than 95 percent white. I was actually a little surprised by this; I would have thought the number would be higher.
Apparently “diversity” is considered as well:
Rank remaining places based on housing affordability, school quality, arts and leisure, safety, health care, diversity, and several ease-of-living criteria.
Of course, “diversity” means something different to white people and people of color. Studies have also shown that white people tend to significantly overestimate the number of people of color in their community.
And then the list was whittled down further:
Visit towns and interview residents, assessing traffic, parks, and gathering places and considering intangibles like community spirit.
“Community spirit”? Like how that Harvard study showed “racial homogeneity” increases “inter-racial trust”?
Money’s repeated publishing of these “best” lists intrigues me for a number of reasons. First, it appears the list is geared towards white people (and probably white people with specific other privileges). Second, the 2009 list didn’t include any cities with an African American population greater than 6 percent. I can’t remember all the details, but various studies have showed that once a previously almost-all-white community’s population becomes more than seven* percent African American, it will eventually become majority black.
*Okay, I can’t remember all the details. I’m pretty sure it was seven. I have all the research on a floppy disk somewhere.
So are these communities attractive to white people because the white population is fairly stable? Have any of these communities faced rapidly changing racial demographics?
I don’t know if there is any similar research about Asian Americans. But I have lived in two towns where substantial numbers of Asian Americans moved into previously mostly-white areas. If there are just one or two of you, white people are pretty tolerant. But significant numbers tend to raise tension. (Cupertino comes to mind.)
And where are the great small towns that are majority-black or majority-Asian or majority-other-brown? I came across this interesting Christian Science Monitor article about African American small towns. Aren’t there any small towns with majority-Asian populations? Like maybe in Hawaii or California?
In any event, I wonder what it would be like to live in such a community. As it is, I feel a marked difference having moved to an area with a significant Asian population. For one thing, many of my neighbors speak to me now. But a majority population? I don’t think I can even imagine it.