From the Hilltop to North Side, Black flight drives population change in Pittsburgh

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

Jennifer Cash Wade’s family really stood out when they moved to Beltzhoover in the mid-1950s.

“There were very few Black families. Beltzhoover was basically a white community,” she said.

But as in many neighborhoods affected by white flight, the racial makeup shifted dramatically. From 1950 to 2010, the neighborhood steadily lost three-quarters of its population, dwindling to 1,925 residents and becoming more than 80% Black.

Over the last decade, population loss continued but was no longer dominated by white flight. It was driven largely by the departure of Black residents. Black flight appears to be the dominant demographic shift not just in Beltzhoover, but through much of Pittsburgh over the past decade.

While the city lost negligible white population from 2009 through 2018, it saw a drop of about 7,000 Black residents — or 9% of its Black population — according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau survey results by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. That was offset only partly by increases in Asian and multiracial residents.

Some of the city’s losses are the suburbs’ gains. Allegheny County outside of the city increased Black population during the last decade.

“I think there are people who want to live in the city but can’t find housing at their income level, so they’re being forced out to Clairton and McKeesport and surrounding communities,” said Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess. Others, he said, find that the city lacks the “amenities and outcomes and access to resources” that they seek.


From 1950 to 2010, Beltzhoover steadily lost three-quarters of its population, driven in part by white flight. Since then, the neighborhood’s population loss has been driven by the loss of Black residents. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)


From the Hilltop to North Side, Black flight drives population change in Pittsburgh



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