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Analyses Last Updated: Sep 18, 2017 - 8:18:21 AM

Segregation and changing populations shape Rust Belt's politics
By John Austin, Brookings , September 14, 2017
Sep 17, 2017 - 9:27:15 AM

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This summer, in A tale of two Rust Belts, I explored how diverging economic paths in the Great Lakes region help explain political patterns we are seeing today. Since last year’s election in which Rust Belt states delivered the decisive victories for President Trump, interest in the economic plight, anxieties, and frustrations of the residents of these communities has been intense.

Yet the region’s economy is not the only factor behind its shifting politics. Its unique demographic and racial geography matters, too. While recent events in Charlottesville and debates throughout the South over removal of Confederate statues have focused the nation’s increasingly heated discussion of race on that region of the country, the sharpest black-white racial divides and most intense segregation in the country today can be found in the older industrial city-regions of the Midwest. Indeed, the white supremacist charged with Heather Heyer’s killing in Charlottesville traveled from Maumee, Ohio, outside of Toledo.

Fully 15 of the nation’s 25 major metro areas with the sharpest black-white segregation are in the Rust Belt region. This reflects several historical trends, including the Great Migration—black and white—from the South and Appalachia to the mills, factories, and machine shops of northern cities; the clash and subsequent flight of white residents from these cities; urban renewal and highway building that destroyed black communities and aided white flight; and the strict housing and education policies that enforced segregation in the North, made vividly clear in Richard Rothstein’s
The Color of Law.

And now, immigration has become an unambiguous factor in this racially charged Midwestern landscape. While immigrant-rich states like Arizona, California, and Florida are often at the center of immigration policy discussions,
the political debate about the role of immigrants burns hottest in the heartland. For years, these communities have hemorrhaged population to the Sun Belt and other parts of the country. But legal immigrants have kept coming.

Evidence shows that immigration has benefited the Rust Belt demographically and economically. A steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—a very different immigrant population than the Europeans who settled in the Midwest beginning more than 150 years ago—has slowed the hollowing out of the region’s bigger cities and small factory towns in recent decades. In most of the Midwest today, immigrants are a major source—and in some communities the only source—of population and new business growth. According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, from 2000 to 2015, non-native born populations in Midwest metros grew 34 percent (more than 1 million people), and accounted for 37 percent of all Midwest communities’ population growth. From Racine and Janesville, Wis. in the west, to Akron, Ohio and Erie, Pa. in the east, growth in immigrant populations has compensated for losses or outpaced modest growth of native-born populations.

Source:Ocnus.net 2017

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