“Nothing surprised us, to be honest,” says Daren Ellerbee of African-American Neighborhoods of Choice (AANC), a research group studying Pittsburgh’s middle-class African-Americans, and the neighborhoods they choose. “The study confirmed what we all expected. People viewed Pittsburgh as a place that lacks culture and opportunities.”
Their report, entitled “Neighborhood Attraction Factors Impacting the Young Professional African American Population in the City of Pittsburgh,” was compiled with help from the University Center for Social and Urban Research at Pitt, and support from The Heinz Endowments.
By studying both the “push” and “pull” factors, the group feels like they have a baseline of knowledge to start addressing some of the long-standing issues keeping African-American millenials from arriving and staying.
“The initial driver was the 2010 census that showed that while the population in Pittsburgh stabilized, the region was still hemorrhaging African-American professionals,” explains Ellerbee.
“It seemed like the voice of that particular demographic is missing from the narrative. We wanted to see what was driving black flight, which is almost a reversal of the trend in the ‘40s and ‘50s.”
Pittsburgh was then one of the capitals of African-American culture, which ranged from the crusading journalism of the Pittsburgh Courier to a music scene that birthed legends like Billy Strayhorn, Art Blakey and Mary Lou Williams, among many others.