New white flight seeks escape from suburban diversity Shift raises apprehension of 'Balkanization' along rural-urban divide


MOUND HOUSE, Nev. -- Four years ago, Richard and Sherrie Glover decided they had had enough of life in Upland, a suburb of Los Angeles. They were fed up with the traffic, fed up with the smog, and frightened by what they believed was increased activity by Hispanic gangs.

"You started to see more graffiti and more crime," Sherrie Glover said at the office of the small manufacturing company she and her husband own here. "We started noticing things two years before we moved. There were more break-ins at the shop. You leave something outside for a minute and you could kiss it goodbye."

Toward the end of 1993, the Glovers decided to leave, moving themselves and their business to this rural community in Lyon County, 10 miles east of Carson City. In doing so, they joined what has become an important population shift: the flight of whites from ethnically and racially diverse metropolitan areas.

In a smaller-scale rerun of the exodus from central cities to the suburbs a generation ago, many whites are leaving metropolitan areas, including many close-in suburbs, for more remote rural areas in states such as Colorado, Utah, Missouri, Idaho, Kansas, Texas, Montana and Nevada.

The movement has reversed a decade-long decline in the rural population, according to the Census Bureau. From 1990 through 1995, rural counties had a net influx of more than 1.6 million people, virtually all from domestic migration. This is a stark contrast to the 1980s, when rural counties suffered a net loss of 1.4 million.

Some demographers say the population shifts are producing a kind of racial and ethnic polarization in which a few states, mainly along the East and West coasts, become more mixed, while broad swaths of the country in the Rocky Mountain states, the Upper Midwest and New England remain overwhelmingly white. Some demographers are warning of a "Balkanization" of America.

"What that means in terms of the Balkanization is that while there is increasing diversity, it is not happening all over America," said William Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan. "It's happening in California, Texas, New York and Florida."

New York City and all but its most outlying suburbs grew from immigration but suffered a net loss of more than 1.3 million people from 1990 through 1996, according to analysis done by Frey. The same phenomenon took place in the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago areas.

"It's fairly clear to me that a certain amount of movement into rural areas can fairly be described as white flight," said Calvin Beale, a Department of Agriculture demographer.

"I have rarely heard anyone mention race in the context of talking about this," he added. "They talk about getting away from urban crime, drugs, congestion and school problems. But it also means getting away from areas that have significant percentages of blacks, Hispanics and Asians."

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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