Amid hardships in America’s northern cities, Blacks are continuing to pack up and migrate to find better conditions down South, according to new data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census’ study on migration, released on Feb. 15, revealed that over the last decade, America’s Black population grew by nearly 1.7 million, with 75 percent of that increase occurring in the South.

Census data compiled by the Associated Press found that the growth chiefly occurred in metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston and Charlotte, N.C. The Black population in Northern states such as Chicago and New York continued to decline. According to Census analysis conducted by demographer William H. Frey, nearly 57 percent of all U.S. Blacks reside in the South, up from 53 percent in the 1970s.

“It’s no coincidence that the shift is happening as we encounter economic turmoil that is being felt disproportionately among Blacks, such as mortgage foreclosures, loss of jobs and economic devastation in major Northern hubs,” Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau said. “With major changes and less racial devastation in the South, people are finding their way back.”

In U.S. states specifically, Georgia leads the pack with the greatest number of Blacks, followed by Texas, Florida and California.

Broken down to metropolitan areas, Atlanta experienced the most gains in Black population growth, with an increase of 445,578 Blacks between 2000 and 2008. Frey’s “State of Metropolitan America” report, which analyzes and breaks down U.S. Census data, believes the region’s large middle-class Black population and its diversified and growing economy is the cause for its attraction.

The results were derived from 2009 data that will most likely be presented in an official 2010 report. That report is expected to show changes in non-Hispanic African-American populations in states such as Texas, New York, Georgia, Florida and Illinois.

The trend comes nearly a century after the onset of the U.S. Great Migration, when Blacks left Southern states to find better job opportunities in Northern, Midwestern and Western cities. At that point, nearly 90 percent of the nation’s Black population resided in the South.

“African-Americans are acting as other Americans would-searching for better economic opportunity in the Sun Belt,” Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, an account on the Great Migration, told the AP. “But there is also a special connection. As the South becomes more in line with the rest of the country in social and political equality, many to connect with their ancestral homeland.”

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