07/15/2010 09:10 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

America Becomes a Little More Like Paris

In Paris, the central city is wealthier and whiter than the suburbs.* In the United States, the demographics have been the reverse. Our central cities have been poorer and browner than the suburbs. In the twenty-first century, the United States has begun to look a little more like Paris.

A majority of all of the major nonwhite groups now live in the suburbs, reports the Brookings Metropolitan Program in its State of Metropolitan America. In 2008, 50.5 percent of blacks lived in the suburbs. About 60 percent of Hispanics and Asians lived in the suburbs. Blacks only just became majority suburban, but Hispanics and Asians were majority suburban in 2000.

While nonwhites have been moving to the suburbs, some "chocolate cities" have been becoming whiter. Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York are all whiter in 2008 than they were in 2000.
And poverty is also becoming more common in the suburbs. The authors of the State of Metropolitan America tell us that "suburbs are home to the fastest growing and largest poor population in the country." The poverty rate is still higher in America's cities than suburbs, however. Since the suburbs have a larger population than the central cities, they can have more people in poverty and still have a lower poverty rate.

*In Paris, housing projects for low-income people are located outside of the central city in what is called the "banlieue."