From the Print

2010 Census redux— Stats confirm diversity drop

Yellow Springs has become a much less racially-diverse community with 40 percent fewer people of color than in 1970, according to the latest 2010 U.S. Census data released. The largest losses have been from the village’s African-American community, which shrunk by two-thirds since 1970, far faster than the total resident drop in the community, which fell by about one-quarter over the same period.

In 2010 African Americans accounted for just 12 percent of the population, down from 26.2 percent in 1970. And over the same time period, white residents have steadily increased to 78.1 percent of the population, higher than the national average. But in the last 10 years, multi-racial residents have grown to a much larger share of the local population and the village still counts more people of color per capita than Ohio and Greene County.

As the trend of shrinking diversity was confirmed by yet another Census, Yellow Springs residents expressed concern about the impacts on the community and weighed in on what, if anything, can be done to stem the decline.

Behind the racial diversity drop

Village resident Brian Walker moved to Yellow Springs in the 1960s because it seemed more accommodating to African Americans than nearby communities. The Omar Circle neighborhood, built by an African-American developer, was fast filling up with black families and the African-American community was growing, he said.

By the 1970 Census, there were 1,213 African-American residents in Yellow Springs, more than one-quarter of the village’s total population. Yellow Springs had three times as many African Americans as a share of its population than Ohio and had more than twice the level of the nation.

Then national trends and local circumstances turned the tide on the town’s relatively high racial diversity.

“From the ‘50s to the ‘70s Yellow Springs was one of the few communities that had good schools and was relatively welcoming to black people,” said Council member Lori Askeland.

But when the effects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act started to kick in and other communities, many of which were less expensive to live in, became more hospitable to black residents, fewer African Americans may have moved to the village, she said.

Walker also saw many African-American residents leaving when new housing options became available to them in nearby communities. Especially since 1990, housing prices have risen faster in Yellow Springs than the Greater Dayton area, making the village a relatively more expensive place to live.

Don Benning, a descendant of a freed slave who came here in 1859, also witnessed an exodus of African-American residents in recent decades, but points to a different reason — the town’s loss of jobs.

Benning said that when Morris Bean and Vernay were large employers, many people, both black and white, worked there. Benning himself worked a stint at Vernay right out of high school. As these industries declined and as more African Americans went to college, the village offered fewer employment opportunities. A case in point is Benning’s son, Duncan, who left town in 1995 after one year at Antioch College and now lives and works in Tuscon, Ariz.

“With the last generation especially, more of them attended college and there was no reason for them to come back to Yellow Springs,” Benning said. “They went where the jobs were.”

But the trend is not unique to Yellow Springs, Benning added. From his research, the African-American population has declined in small towns all across the country due to job losses.

By 2010, Yellow Springs counted just 417 African Americans, a decline of 796 from 1970. When Enshane Nomoto came to the village with her family from Kochi, Japan, in 2009, the reputation of Yellow Springs may have already been diverging from the reality.

“One of the reasons I moved here was because so many people touted the diversity that Yellow Springs is known for,” Nomoto said. “I see a diversity of thought, I see a diversity of experience…I don’t see specifically a diversity of race.”

Another casualty of the drop in African-American residents has been their declining visibility in organizations and businesses.

“There are significant organizations but not everyone’s a part of it,” Nomoto said. “It is alarming the small number of organizations and places for people to hang out. It has been a barrier for a lot of blacks outside of the community that feel they want to get involved here.”

Benning suggested that the African-American community may not be as visible and active as it once was.

“I know some people who live here feel they don’t fit in, so they stay to their own neighborhood or group of friends,” he said.

Returning to a higher level of racial diversity remains an important goal for many village leaders since it strengthens the community.

To Nomoto, racial diversity is reassuring because it signals a town’s openness to all ethnic backgrounds, which often goes hand-and-hand with economic backgrounds. Without racial diversity, “it makes you wonder who is getting cut off and why,” she said.

Askeland shares Nomoto’s concern.

“Most of us on Council feel like part of what’s attractive about Yellow Springs — what makes it not just another suburban community — is its rich history which includes the history of a strong African-American community in this town,” she said.

One way to attract more African-American residents may be to promote the village’s African-American history. Nomoto is working to re-organize a pamphlet and tour of significant places in Yellow Springs that were connected with African-American history.

“I think there would be more interest generated [among African Americans] and it could make a difference in people not just visiting but settling in the community,” Nomoto said.

Efforts to increase the number of jobs in the village and make housing and living costs more affordable may also help increase the village’s racial diversity, ­villagers said.

Multi-racial growth

Even as the number of African-Americans and non-white residents in town dwindles, Yellow Springs has seen high and growing rates of residents selecting two or more races, a category only available since the 2000 Census. When first counted, this group accounted for a 5.7 percent share of the population, which rose to 7.3 percent over the last decade. Comparatively, Ohio records 2.1 percent residents of two or more races and the U.S. counts 2.9 percent.

In total 256 villagers selected this option in 2010. The largest share of that group were those noting both African-American and white backgrounds. If that group were added to the village’s existing African-American population, the town would have 16.9 percent residents selecting an African-American heritage, down slightly from 18.7 in 2000.

Many attributed the rise in mixed-race residents to the same factors that led to a growth in the number of African Americans decades ago.

“I think multi-racial families feel a certain stigma out in the world and Yellow Springs may be a place they would feel less of that because there are more multi-racial families,” Askeland said, adding that the trend makes her hopeful.

Walker said the picture of diversity in Yellow Springs is changing and his son, for one, has contributed to the rising number of mixed-race residents. While the African-American population was more homogenous in previous decades, there aren’t as many distinct ethnic groups and, instead, more blending among them, Walker said.

Nomoto’s children, Yukim and Yukaiyo, who are African American and Japanese, are also part of that growing demographic. But Nomoto said she is cautious about celebrating the trend.

“I think there’s a great number of bi-racial and multi-ethnic families but I don’t want us to get comfortable with that notion,” Nomoto said. “We can’t rest on our laurels considering we’re the only community that has that, because we’re not.”

The number of residents of other races has stayed steady in the village in the last 10 years to about 2.6 percent of its total population or 89 residents. Though just under the state average, this is far below the U.S.’s 12.1 percent.

The most sizeable single non-African -American minority race in the village is Asian, largely Chinese and Japanese. American Indian and Alaska Native heritage was second only to African American among those selecting two or more races. The village’s Hispanic or Latino population remains far below county, state or national averages.

Households getting smaller

Yellow Springs has more households but fewer persons per household, continuing a 40-year slide that can largely be attributed to an aging population.

The number of total households in the village jumped to 1,672 in the last decade, a rise of 5 percent, after being relatively flat. The number of housing units grew by 129 in the last decade alone. Persons per household fell from 2.84 persons per household in 1970 to 2.04 in 2010, in part because of the increase in total households.

Part of the reason has been that the village’s median age rose to 48.5 years in 2010, more than double its median age of 22.7 in 1970. Residents are choosing to age in place, many of them staying long after their children have grown up and moved. The trend is confirmed in the number of villagers living alone, most common amongst the elderly, which rose from 505 in 1990 to 656 in 2010.

Also contributing to the persons per household decline were measures of both fewer families and fewer persons per family. In 1990, the village counted 973 families, which fell to 897 by 2000 but stabilized, rising slightly to 902 by 2010. The number of persons per family kept falling, however, to an average of 2.7 by 2010, from 2.85 in 1990. Demographers attribute much of this change to decisions to start a family later in life and have fewer children.

Village households with residents under 18 continued to fall while households with residents over 65 rose in the last several decades. Households with children dropped from 29.4 percent of the 1990 population to 25.4 percent in 2010 and at the same time households housing seniors increased even faster from 21.2 percent of the population 20 years ago to 31.7 percent in 2010.

Yet the decline in families with children in Yellow Springs, a loss of 1.6 percent over the last decade alone, was far less than in the region in general, which saw this group shrink by 4.4 percent since 2000, according to the Dayton Daily News. There were 37 communities in the Miami Valley with larger drops in the number of families with children over the decade and just nine with better growth rates. Among the largest losers were nearby towns of Bellbrook, Beavercreek and Xenia.

Even with a loss of families with children, the number of children and teens in the village has stayed relatively stable over the last decade. The number of residents under 18 dropped slightly to 688, from 693 in 2000, but rose as a percentage of the population from 18.4 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2010.

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