Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Demographic Study of White Flight from Milwaukee to Waukesha

How did we get here?
One of the questions I've had since moving to Wisconsin is how Waukesha became so darned conservative.  It sits in stark contrast to neighboring Milwaukee county.  In addition, there are literally no African-Americans in Waukesha.

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.[16] 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.

[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.
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.


  1. Good analysis, Phil. Help reverse the trend! It's one of the reasons I moved to MKE from the burbs. This is a great city, despite what the JS might have us believe.

    Frank Zeidler's memoirs, "A Liberal in City Government", goes into great detail regarding his annexation and other battles with the early Iron Ring. Really a must-read for understanding the root of the animosity between Milwaukee and Waukesha politics, race relations, etc.

  2. The problem is that my wife works in Madison so it's already a 1 hour commute each way for her. Moving to Milwaukee would add another 30 minutes each way. More likely, if we can somehow find a way to sell our house in Waukesha we'd move to Madison. I can do my job from there no problem. But I'm not holding my breath on selling a house these days.

  3. White flight isn't caused by "racism," as many of those who have been recently fleeing have been affluent Blacks. It's caused from machinations by the new socialist crooks, who have been growing in power in the municipal centers ever since the 1970s. Property taxes are steadily increased, to pay for increases in the salaries of unionized teachers and other government employees. As the union teachers feel more and more secure in their jobs, the education quality of the inner city schools plummet. Property crimes and violent crimes are allowed to go unpunished, forcing the more stubborn among the employed or elderly residents to leave (or killing them outright). Eventually all the property is controlled by politicians or their friends, who collect Section 8 payments on the poor, unemployed, entirely dependent residents still trapped in these inner city ghettos. They become a captive voting pool that crooked Leftist politicians can depend on to keep them in power.

    The system is intrinsically corrupt, and these politicians know it. But anyone who interferes is attacked relentlessly, and their criticisms are dismissed as "racism". Thus how an incredibly rich city like Detroit can be looted to the point where it goes bankrupt, with property taxes double that of other cities, where teachers that make over $70,000 a year graduate 1 in 4 students from high school, and where almost half the population is functionally illiterate.

    Democrats once owned Black people outright. When they couldn't do this, they used Jim Crow laws to treat them as property in all but name. When this wasn't feasible anymore, they used federal authority and the welfare industry to do it. How incredibly ironic that the very people responsible for racism in the US attack their opponents as "racist" for trying to do something about this latest scheme. The Democrats who broke Reconstruction would be proud.

  4. Middle class and affluent blacks are leaving these areas as well, it's not just whites, and it isn't new trend. The largest mass exodus of the middle class in American history came in the decade that followed the Watts riots of 1964. Yes, it was a majority white class that departed the area, but the dirty little secret is that middle class and affluent blacks left with them. Much of what remained of the middle class in South Central LA left after the Rodney King riots.

    It's called "Black Flight". And I say good for them.