Segregated America

Using data from the 2010 U.S. Census, Salon lists out 10 urban areas where race segregation is most prevalent.

The list includes Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, and is based on metropolitan areas of 500,000 people or more.

"Segregation itself, the decennial census report indicates, is only decreasing slowly, although the dividing lines are shifting as middle-income blacks, Latinos and Asians move to once all-white suburbs -- whereupon whites often move away, turning older suburbs into new, if less distressed, ghettos.

We may think of segregation as a matter of ancient Southern history: lunch counter sit-ins, bus boycotts and Ku Klux Klan terrorism. But as the census numbers remind us, Northern cities have long had higher rates of segregation than in the South, where strict Jim Crow laws kept blacks closer to whites, but separate from them. Where you live has a big impact on the education you receive, the safety on your streets, and the social networks you can leverage."

Full Story: The 10 most segregated urban areas in America



False Premise in Salon Article

With all due respect to the research upon which Salon based its article, the premises of the researchers is just plain wrong. They are relying on the Dissimilarly Index to identify the level of racial segregation in housing in each metropolitan area. That index says what percentage of the population would have to move to have an even distribution of the races within a metropolitan area.

That's a wonderful tool for sociologists to compare cities -- but it is simply an inaccurate and unfair measure of housing segregation. There is no reason on earth to define integration as an even distribution of the races in a metro area -- it's unrealistic and unfair. It's fatal flaw is that it fails to take into account household income, especially the different distribution of household income among the races and Hispanics. Integration is not an even distribution of the races throughout a metropolitan area. Income and housing cost must be taken into account. For example, we recently completed an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) for Clark County, NV. One of the cities had an African American population of 0.7% in 2000 and 0.9% in 2010. That's severe segregation the likes of which you don't even find in the very segregated Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Applying the Dissimilarity Index though, fails to identify the actual level of segregation. Instead it's necessary to conduct an analysis to identify what the racial and ethnic composition of each city would be in a free housing market devoid of racial/ethnic discrimination where income is the prime determinant of where you live. In this case, the city would have been about 8 percent African American in 2000 if there were no racial discrimination going on in the housing market. The black population would have been 28 greater than it actually was.

For a full discussion of the methodology, see the 2011 Clark County AI, page 22, footnote 4 and the full discussion of housing segregation on pages 16-39. It's both simpler and most complicated than one might intuitively think. You can download or view a PDF of the study by going to and selecting the "Analysis of Impediments" button near the top.

Daniel Lauber, AICP
AICP President 2003-2005, 1992-1994
APA President 1985-1986

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