Study: Residential segregation still a problem in US

May 31, 2012

Despite increasing numbers of multiethnic neighborhoods in the United States, relatively few black or white families are actually moving into these types of communities, according to a new study in the June issue of the American Sociological Review.

"We pay a lot of attention to this of multiethnic , but they are still only a small part of the overall inter-neighborhood mobility picture for blacks and whites," said Kyle Crowder, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. "Blacks tend to originate in neighborhoods with very high concentrations of blacks and, when they move, they tend to move to other places that have very high concentrations of blacks. Their typical destination is not a multiethnic neighborhood. The same is even more true for whites."

Titled, "Neighborhood Diversity, Metropolitan Constraints, and Household ," the study considers of 44,808 black families and 57,415 white families, some of whom moved several times between 1977 and 2005, the period covered by the analysis. The study, which looks at moves families made from one neighborhood in a to another neighborhood in the same metropolitan area, relies on multiple sources of data, including the Panel Study of —a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of U.S. residents—and the 1980, 1990, and 2000 U.S. Censuses.

According to the study, of the 9,940 moves that black families made between 1977 and 2005, 43.7 percent (4,340) were to predominately black neighborhoods, 5 percent (494) were to predominately white neighborhoods, 17.7 percent (1,763) were to multiethnic neighborhoods (whose populations were at least 10 percent black, at least 10 percent Hispanic or Asian, and at least 40 percent white), and 33.6 percent (3,343) were to other types of neighborhoods detailed in the analysis. By comparison, of the 8,823 moves that white families made during the same time period, 56.8 percent (5,008) were to predominately white neighborhoods, 2 percent (179) were to predominately black neighborhoods, 5.6 percent (493) were to multiethnic neighborhoods, and 35.6 percent (3,143) were to other types of neighborhoods.

"Our study tells a somewhat pessimistic story, but it's also a realistic story," said Crowder, who coauthored the analysis with Jeremy Pais, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, and Scott J. South, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Albany, SUNY. "It's a story that counters this idea that we should stop paying attention to . The truth is, when it comes to eliminating residential segregation, we still have a long way to go. This becomes particularly clear when we look at the high percentage of black families from predominately black neighborhoods and the even higher percentage of white families from predominately white neighborhoods who wind up in homogeneous communities when they move."

The study found that of the 3,684 moves that black families made from predominately black neighborhoods between 1977 and 2005, 60.9 percent (2,245) were to other predominately black neighborhoods, 2 percent (74) were to predominately white neighborhoods, 18.9 percent (696) were to multiethnic neighborhoods, and 18.2 percent (669) were to other types of neighborhoods. By comparison, of the 4,987 moves that white families made from predominately white neighborhoods during the same time period, 74.9 percent (3,734) were to other predominately white neighborhoods, 1.5 percent (73) were to predominately black neighborhoods, 2.4 percent (120) were to multiethnic neighborhoods, and just over 21 percent (1,060) were to other types of neighborhoods.

Crowder said it is important to note that—after controlling for other factors—the year in which black and white families moved had little or no impact on the kinds of neighborhoods to which they moved. "For black families, year of move is statistically non-significant and for white families it has a minimal impact," Crowder said. "So, by itself, year doesn't seem to be a very important indicator of where blacks and whites moved—and there wasn't much change in where blacks and whites moved over time, once we account for other factors that affect destinations."

Interestingly, the study also found that the tendency for white and black families to move between neighborhoods dominated by their own racial group varies significantly across metropolitan areas. "The mobility of black and white families into more integrated neighborhoods is shaped substantially by demographic, economic, political, and spatial features of the broader metropolitan area," Crowder said.

According to the study, metropolitan area characteristics likely to limit residential integration for blacks and whites include: high levels of existing residential segregation and poverty as well as a significant percentage of the population living in the suburbs. "Lower levels of these characteristics promote integration," Crowder said. "Additionally, mobility into more diverse neighborhoods is more common in metropolitan areas with large supplies of new housing and relatively large concentrations of racial and ethnic minorities."

In terms of policy implications, Crowder said the study highlights the need for policymakers to continue working on ways to address residential segregation. "Residential segregation influences such things as the concentration and the propagation of crime as well as racial disparities in health and in exposure to pollution," Crowder said. "When people say, 'Segregation is going away' and 'We don't need to worry about it anymore,' those are messages that people will latch onto quickly. Unfortunately, those types of statements are just untrue."

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Where Hispanics live in the US may change over time

Oct 17, 2008

A study of residential patterns in America suggests that White and Black Hispanics born in the U.S. are more likely to share neighborhoods with native non-Hispanic Whites and African Americans, compared to foreign-born Hispanics ...

Recommended for you

Decoding ethnic labels

4 hours ago

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

Jul 29, 2014

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

Jul 29, 2014

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

Jul 29, 2014

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

Jul 29, 2014

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Skepticus
1 / 5 (3) May 31, 2012
"Despite increasing numbers of multiethnic neighborhoods in the United States, relatively few black or white families are actually moving into these types of communities"
Reciprocal racial discrimination? Really, after 300 years, the USA still in the grip of "your color is not the same as mine" stupidity. Or willful perpetuity?
Bob_Kob
4 / 5 (4) May 31, 2012
The forcing of racism propaganda must stop. Apparently everything is racist.

You know why people move into areas of their own kind? Its because you can relate! Common heritage goes beyond just colour of skin, it allows a neighbourhood connection.

Eventually as generations go by, each successive generation is less connected to their heritage than the last, and thus then you get all sorts ethnicities to de-segregate.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2012
Is residential segregation a problem? Or is it a symptom? What is the problem? Can't get a good solution unless you understand the problem. Can sociologists take care to express their work without introducing implicit bias by their choice of words? Being able to gather statistics doesn't compensate for fuzzy thinking.
dogbert
3.4 / 5 (5) May 31, 2012
The study assumes that preferential self aggregation of commonalities is bad. It provides no real support for this assumption.

Public policy should not be guided by such bias.
ryggesogn2
2.3 / 5 (3) May 31, 2012
The Community Reinvestment Act failed?
Corban
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2012
What if this is not a market failure, but the market expressing the true preferences of its actors? In that case, this would not make it a technical problem but a philosophical one. If one's feelings do not have legitimacy on a larger scale, then whose feelings do? And if feelings themselves have no legitimacy, what shall be our guide?

Since the outcome of our policies apparently isn't known a priori, can we at least make a just process and then leave the rest to probability?