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Trends in Social and Economic Conditions in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

Report Number P23-33


This report presents statistics describing selected characteristics of persons and families in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in 1969 and 1960. Data for both the central cities and suburban rings of metropolitan areas are shown when that type of residence distinction is significant. Wherever possible, data are presented for whites and Negroes separately. The major subjects featured in this report are: population distribution, family composition and income, education, employment, earnings, and poverty.

Some highlights of the data presented in this report are:

  1. POPULATION—While the population of the United States as a whole increased by 12 percent since 1960, the population within metropolitan areas increased by 15 percent. The proportion of the population residing in metropolitan areas in 1969 ranged from 51 percent in the South to 78 percent in the Northeast. Within metropolitan areas, virtually, if not all the population growth between 1960 and 1969 occurred in the suburban rings. In the central cities, the number of whites declined while the Negro population increased by three million. Negroes now represent one-fifth of the central city population.
  2. FAMILY CHARACTERISTICS—About 88 percent of the white families and 68 percent of the Negro families in metropolitan areas had both husband and wife present in 1969. There was a decline between 1960 and 1969 in the proportion of husband-wife families among Negroes. The proportion of Negro families headed by women increased in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas from 1960 to 1969.

    While the median income for families in metropolitan areas was higher than that for nonmetropolitan families in both 1959 and 1968, the relative differences between the median incomes diminished between 1959 and 1968. The income per family member for whites was about $1,400 higher than that for Negroes both inside and outside metropolitan areas in 1968. The median income for city families was below that for suburban families, with the suburban families' median income increasing at a faster rate between 1959 and 1968.
  3. EDUCATION—The proportion of white and Negro persons 25 to 29 years old who completed high school increased substantially in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas between 1960 and 1969. The median educational attainment of young Negro adults was 1.4 years higher within metropolitan areas than outside metropolitan areas.

    Of the men between 25 and 54 years of age living in metropolitan areas, about two=thirds had  completed high school and about one-fifth had completed at least four years of college in 1969. The proportion of these men who completed high school was higher in the suburbs than in the central city. A larger proportion of white than Negro men completed high school in both the city and the suburbs.

    For all levels of educational attainment, the relative gap between the median income of white and Negro men narrowed between 1959 and 1968. However, in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the median incomes of whites were considerably above those of Negroes with the same level of education.
  4. EMPLOYMENT—Unemployment rates declined significantly in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas between 1960 and 1969. In central cities and in suburban rings, the unemployment rate for males 20 years and over in 1969 was about half what it had been in 1960. Between 1960 and 1969, the unemployment rate for adult Negro men in cities dropped from 9.9 percent to 3.9 percent. In both 1969 and 1960, the rate of unemployment among Negroes was about twice as high as that among whites in metropolitan areas.

    There has been a substantial increase in the labor force participation of women since 1960. Within metropolitan areas, one-half of the women were either employed or seeking employment in March 1969.
  5. EARNINGS—The median earnings of men and women within metropolitan areas were higher than those for workers in nonmetropolitan areas in both 1968 and 1959. The proportion of workers employed for a full year increased among both men and women in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas between 1959 and 1968.

    In most occupation groups the earnings of men who worked year round in 1968 were substantially higher than the earnings of women employed in the same type of occupation in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Among year-round workers of either sex in most occupations, the median earnings in 1968 of workers living in metropolitan areas were higher than for those living in nonmetropolitan areas employed in the same type of occupation.
  6. POVERTY—The proportion of persons in the United States below the poverty level dropped from 22 percent to 13 percent between 1959 and 1968. Ten percent of all persons in metropolitan areas were poor in 1968, while the rate of poverty outside these areas was 18 percent. Both inside and outside metropolitan areas, poverty rates for white persons were far below those for Negroes.

    Within metropolitan areas, there were more poor families headed by women in 1968 than in 1959. Poor Negro families headed by women increased by 48 percent between 1959 and 1968. In contrast to the rising trend among poor families with female heads, families below the poverty level headed by men declined by about 45 percent during this period.

    In central cities of metropolitan areas of 1,000,000 or more the poverty rates in 1968 were 9 percent and 24 percent for white and Negro persons, respectively. The number of poor white persons in these cities declined by 800,000, while the number of poor Negroes was about the same in 1968 as in 1959.
  7. POVERTY AREAS—On the basis of the characteristics of census tracts in 1960, poverty areas were delineated in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The number of families living in these poverty areas declined by 16 percent between 1960 and 1969. The number of white families in these areas dropped by 19 percent as compared to a 10 percent decline among families of Negro and other races.

    Over one-half of all poor families in poverty areas were of Negro and other races in 1968. Outside these poverty areas, the percent of poor families of Negro and other races increased from 10 percent in 1959 to 23 percent in 1968.

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.


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