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Trends in Social and Economic Conditions in Metropolitan Areas

Report Number P23-27


This report presents statistics about the population changes that took place in the central cities of the Nation’s 212 standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA's),1 and their suburban rings between 1960 and 1968. It shows the changes that took place during this period in population, family composition, education, employment, income, and poverty. The aim of this report is to provide a summary of pertinent data available from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on current conditions in our major cities and to describe the direction and magnitude of changes since 1960. Wherever possible, data are presented for whites and Negroes separately.

This statistical report cannot present data on all the details of the urban scene since it is limited to those aspects of life which has been measured over time on a comparable basis. Health, crime, housing conditions, and the quality of education are among those vital elements of urban life for which adequate data are not available from the CPS. Other elements crucial for understanding what have been happening in our major cities have not been measured at all on a national basis. Yet much can be learned from examining the available data brought together in this report.

Most of our indicators of well-being point toward progress in the cities since 1960. However, the rates at which positive changes are taking place will be open to differing interpretations. Likewise where deterioration rather than progress is indicated, the impact of such negative trends is open to debate.

Some highlights of the data presented in this report are:

  1. POPULATION—Virtually all the metropolitan population growth between 1960 and 1968 occurred outside the central cities, where a majority of the metropolitan residents now live. There were fewer white central city residents in 1968 than at the time of the 1960 Census, with the decline in the 25- to 64-year-age group being particularly noticeable. Since 1960, Negroes have become more heavily concentrated in the central cities of metropolitan areas; in 1968 they represented one-fifth of the central city population but only one-twentieth of the remaining metropolitan population.

  2. THE FAMILY—There was an increase in families headed by women—especially among Negroes living in central cities. City families lacking a male head were particularly likely to have low incomes; three-fifths of the female family heads had to support children as well as themselves with their lower-than-average incomes.

    The increase in the number of families headed by a woman indicates that more children are growing up in broken homes. This is most evident among Negroes in the central cities in 1968 where only 6 out of every 10 children were living with both parents.

  3. EDUCATION—The proportion of young adults finishing high school in both central cities and suburbs increased substantially between 1960 and 1968. In central cities the median years of school completed by Negroes who were 25 to 29 years of age increased by about one year. The proportion of Negroes in central cities who completed high school rose from 43 percent in 1960 to 61 percent in 1968.

    In central cities the median income of men 25 to 54 years old who finished high school or college showed a greater increase between 1959 and 1967 than did the income of those who had less than a high school education.

  4. EMPLOYMENT—Unemployment rates dropped significantly between 1960 and 1968 in both central cities and suburbs. The unemployment rate for Negroes continued to be about twice that for whites. One-third of the Negro teenagers living in the central cities were unemployed in 1968, compared with only about one-eighth of the whites.

    Women were more likely to be part of the labor force in 1968 than in 1960. In central cities, about half of the women between 18 and 64 years old were either employed or seeking employment in 1968.

    There is some evidence of a lowering of the barriers which had largely excluded Negro women from employment in the better paying occupations. The proportion of Negro women in the labor force who were employed as private household workers declined substantially between 1960 and 1968 in central cities, whereas the proportion of Negro women who were clerical or sales workers rose from 13 percent in 1960 to 23 percent in 1968.

  5. FAMILY INCOME—In the last 8 years, median family income increased more sharply for suburbanites than for city families; the median income in 1967 of suburban families was about one-fifth higher than that of families living in central cities.

    In 1967 a substantial gap remained between the incomes of whites and Negroes in central cities. However, the median family income of Negroes in central cities increased from 61 percent to 68 percent of the white median family income during the 8-year period. In 1967, 18 percent of all Negro families in central cities had incomes of $10,000 or more.

  6. EARNINGS—The earnings of men who lived in the suburbs in 1968 were higher than those received by central city dwellers.

    In central cities Negro men who worked the year round earned about seven-tenths as much as white workers in 1967—a relationship that has not changed significantly since 1959. Among year-round workers, Negro women made considerable gains toward approaching the earnings of white women; the median earnings of Negro women who were year-round workers were 73 percent as high as those received by white workers in 1967 as compared with 59 percent in 1959.

  7. POVERTY—The number of poor persons in the United States declined by about one-third between 1959 and 1967; the number of white poor persons dropped by 38 percent, while the number of poor Negroes declined by 21 percent. About 10 percent of the metropolitan population and 19 percent of those residing outside metropolitan areas were poor in 1967. The incidence of poverty among central city residents was twice that among suburban residents.

    Since 1959 poverty has been most noticeably reduced among families with a male head, particularly among those families with male heads who were white and under 65 years of age. The degree of poverty among the Negro poor in metropolitan areas was especially severe, with half of these families reporting incomes $1,000 or more below the Social Security Administration's poverty budget in 1967.2

  8. POVERTY AREAS—About half of the population in central-city-poverty areas was nonwhite in 1968, up from 43 percent in 1960. This trend resulted from a sharper decline in the number of whites than of nonwhites in these areas.

    The number of poor white families residing in poverty areas dropped by 50 percent compared to 30 percent for nonwhite families during the 8-year period.

1 SMSA's, central cities, and suburban rings as defined in 1960.
2 For definition of poverty, see page 52.

A Note on Language

Census statistics date back to 1790 and reflect the growth and change of the United States. Past census reports contain some terms that today’s readers may consider obsolete and inappropriate. As part of our goal to be open and transparent with the public, we are improving access to all Census Bureau original publications and statistics, which serve as a guide to the nation's history.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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