|How did we get here?|
Although my analysis is far from complete, I've produced a graph which clearly demonstrates the white flight from Milwaukee County into Waukesha County between 1950 and 1990 (the 1980 data is missing from the site, though). I utilized historical data from the United States Census bureau to plot the growth and potential movement of White and African-American populations in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
The chart reveals the growth and decline of Milwaukee's White population and the parallel growth of Waukesha's White population as the Milwaukee African-American population rises. The correlation between the growth of the White population and Waukesha and the African-American population in Milwaukee is a remarkable .998 indicating a near perfect positive correlation.
Although I have not analyzed the data, I suspect that I would see similar results for Washington and Ozaukee counties as well.
White flight is a racist feature of American demographics. Driven by fear of the "other," it causes middle-class and affluent Whites to abandon urban cores in favor of suburban regions where, through the manipulation of zoning ordinances and homeowner covenants, poor and minority populations can be effectively excluded. It stems from the same racial fear and hatred that drives Wisconsin's current voter disenfranchisement law. Conservatives fear the loss of racial control over the nation. Pundits like Pat Buchanan speak loudly for these people (though many would be loathe to admit it).
The demographic shifts in America between 1940 and 1970 drove African-Americans out of their traditional enclaves in the agricultural deep south and towards new opportunities in the industrial north. What they found when they arrived was as bad or worse than the racism they experienced at the hands of Jim Crow. From Wikipedia:
After World War II, aided by the construction of the interstate highway system, many White Americans began leaving industrial cities for new housing in suburbs. These suburbs often had racially restrictive housing policies excluding African Americans. In the cities, the post-war housing shortages - resulting from the influx of rural black and Latino workers for war-effort employment, combined with the massive numbers of white military veterans returning home from the war, aggravated socio-economic inequalities between the races. Those social conditions precipitated white flight from urban downtown areas to outlying suburbs and subdivisions where the post-war housing boom was already well under way. With the unprecedented influx of blacks and poor whites into the nation's cities during the war, middle-class and middle working-class whites considered suburban locales preferable to the inner cities, many of whose infrastructures were already in serious decline. A practice further reinforcing unofficial segregation in states outside the South, where racial segregation was legal, were exclusionary covenants in title deeds and real estate neighborhood redlining — explicit, legally sanctioned racial discrimination in real property ownership and lending practices. Black Americans were effectively barred from pursuing homeownership, even when they were able to afford it. Suburban expansion was reserved for middle-class and working-class white people, facilitated by their increased wages incurred by the war effort and by subsequent federally guaranteed mortgages (VA, FHA, HOLC) available only to whites to buy new houses. Blacks and other minorities were relegated to a state of permanent rentership.Waukesha was a county which benefited from this "Iron Ring" mentality. And the demographics show the population shifts that contributed to the creation of a nearly all-white Waukesha (98% White). The racism that drove White flight drives the conservative politics of Waukesha today.
[Milwaukee Mayor] Frank P. Zeidler complained about the socially destructive "Iron Ring" of new municipalities incorporated in the post–World War II decade. Analogously, semi-rural communities, such as Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, and Franklin, formally incorporated as discrete entities, to escape urban annexation. Wisconsin state law had allowed Milwaukee’s annexation of such rural and sub-urban regions that did not qualify for discrete incorporation per the legal incorporation standards.