The impact of the second Great Migration was much less dramatic than that of its predecessor, perhaps because its demographic effect was less spectacular. Despite the new westward push of the second migration, the cities that had been the principal destinations of the earlier exodus - New York, Chicago, and Detroit - were also the principal goals of migrants in the 1940s. But the percentage increase in the black populations of these cities was smaller the second time around. Moreover, African- American communities and their social infrastructures were already well established in these Northeastern and Midwestern communities.
Nevertheless, as during the Great Migration, the influx of newcomers resulted in a shortage of housing. Single-family houses were turned into tenements that lodged several large families. Overcrowding and the lack of enforcement of housing and sanitation codes resulted in unsanitary conditions. In Detroit, half the dwellings rented to black tenants were unsafe, whereas only 20 percent of those occupied by whites were in poor condition.
New migrants were restricted, by segregation, to certain neighborhoods in which no new housing was planned. Landlords had a captive population and took advantage of it by raising the rents. The United States Housing Administration took some measures to provide housing for the new residents, but the process was slow. In Detroit, more than 9,000 families applied for city housing in 1941, but fewer than 2,000 were offered apartments in the projects.
In addition, the federal government was deeply implicated in policies that restricted the ability of African Americans to obtain mortgages outside of black neighborhoods. The government also turned a blind eye on segregation in much of the temporary housing constructed during the war to shelter defense-related production workers.
And, finally, government policies and financing played a major role in stimulating the expansion of the suburbs and "white flight" in the postwar era. This flight was described by Ruth Wells:
Realtors would move in a black person with a lot of children. And so the white people in the neighborhood would see all these little black kids running around and they didn't like that....People are frightened... and they didn't give them very much for their houses, but they went up on the price - sometimes double - when they get ready to sell it to the blacks.
Western communities, on the other hand, were usually experiencing a large influx of African Americans for the first time, and they arrived as part of a vast shift of the general population. Eight million Americans moved west of the Mississippi after 1940, half of them to the Pacific coast. There were 171,000 African Americans in the West in 1940, but 620,000 by 1945. Between the spring of 1942 and 1945 alone, 340,000 African Americans settled in California.