Segregation in U.S. cities on the decline, study says

Residential segregation in U.S. cities has been significantly reduced in the last four decades, according to a new study.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Residential segregation in U.S. cities has been significantly reduced in the last four decades, according to a new study.

The study, by Harvard University professor Edward Glaeser and Duke University professor Jacob L. Vigdor, found that all-white neighborhoods "are effectively extinct" and all-black neighborhoods are shrinking.

The reasons: an increase in immigrants that don't fit under "white" or "black"; gentrification of neighborhoods populated by African-Americans; and that group increasingly moving to the suburbs.

The nation’s cities are more racially integrated than at any time since 1910, according to the study.

One caveat, and it's a big one: integration was found to be less pronounced between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, versus blacks and everyone else. Simply, the influx of Asians and Latinos into formerly black or white neighborhoods is having a more pronounced effect than any progress between the two groups.

Still, change is occurring, albeit slowly.

A New York Times summary offers a few data points:

By the dissimilarity index, Dallas and Houston are the least segregated big cities. Los Angeles fared best on the isolation index. Sun Belt cities accounted for fully half of the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest black populations in 2010 compared with only two in 1970. That helps explain why the dissimilarity index plunged nearly 40 points in metropolitan Dallas but less than 10 points (nearly half of that since 2000) in New York.

Among cities with the largest black population, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and St. Louis ranked highest in the dissimilarity index. Among metropolitan areas, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia did.

Perhaps most surprisingly, suburbs -- yes, those white-picket dreams -- are often the most integrated parts of America.

Why the change? The authors elaborate on one point:

In the era of legal housing discrimination, restrictions on the housing choices of African-Americans led to price premiums for ghetto housing. As the legal and social restrictions on these choices subsided, housing prices in ghettos collapsed as the neighborhoods depopulated. In some limited cases, former ghetto neighborhoods have enjoyed a population resurgence fueled by the introduction—or reintroduction—of other racial and ethnic groups.

Still, they warn that socioeconomic progress and physical segregation need not be conflated. "There has been only limited progress in closing achievement and employment gaps between blacks and whites," they write.

The study is called “The End of the Segregated Century,” and it was undertaken for the Center for State and Local Leadership at the Manhattan Institute.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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