Diversity Explosion


Diversity Explosion

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Regular readers of the Milken Institute Review are familiar with the byline of the eminent demographer bill frey. He's a frequent contributor to the Review as well as a senior fellow at the Institute, offering the latest on who lives in America (and where and why) in the form of bite-size "charticles." Bill, by the way, apparently never sleeps. He's also a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and a research professor at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center.

If you've found Bill's charticles as interesting as I have, you're going to devour his latest book, Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America. He’s sifted through Himalayas of data to explain in nontechnical terms how the country is being radically transformed by population dynamics. Here, we excerpt the chapter on neighborhoods. It's an upbeat story – one that suggests that the conditions creating racial conflict from Ferguson to Baltimore may be on the wane.

—Peter Passell

Published July 27, 2015


One of the most intimate settings of American life —one that has an especially important role in shaping community race relations — is the neighborhood.

Neighborhoods are where Americans socialize, shop and attend school and where civic matters have the most impact. Most directly related to the subject of this book is the fact that the racial makeup of a neighborhood can either foster or prevent interactions with other groups. And for many Americans, the term that comes to mind when thinking about race and neighborhoods is segregation. This term conjures up the image of the stark separation between blacks and whites across broad swaths of American neighborhoods that prevailed for much of the 20th century, when segregation was hardly voluntary on the part of blacks. It was deeply rooted in the discriminatory forces that denied blacks anything resembling equal access to jobs, adequate schooling and public services – both before and after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

A less stark type of segregation, most pronounced in the earlier part of the 20th century, was seen in the separate neighborhoods composed of white ethnic immigrant groups in major cities as they assimilated into American life. The immigrant enclaves of Irish, Poles, Italians, Jews and others created economic and cultural comfort zones for them and their co-ethnics. But compared with black ghettos, these enclaves were relatively transitory, usually lasting no longer than a generation. As emigration from Europe waned in the middle of the 20th century, these areas became less prominent as later generations voluntarily moved to the suburbs or other parts of the country.

The 21st century began with some vestiges of past segregation – but also in the midst of the new diversity explosion, which holds the potential to reshape the concept of neighborhood segregation and integration as the country moves forward. In the case of blacks, the emergence of a middle class, their continuing flow to prosperous metropolitan regions in the South and their more widespread movement to the suburbs are driving a shift toward less segregated neighborhood settings than was the norm for much of the 20th century.

The 21st-century counterpart to early 20th-century immigrant enclaves is the neighborhood composed of new minorities – Hispanics and Asians. Yet their recent, widespread dispersion beyond the traditional melting pots also provides opportunities for greater integration at the local level, although perhaps after an initial period of self-segregation.

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From Ghettos to the Decline in Black Segregation

The recent decline in black segregation is especially remarkable when viewed in the context of what might be termed the "ghetto-ization" of America's black population for much of the 20th century. The rise of black neighborhood segregation in large urban ghettos is one of the most defining and regrettable episodes in America's social and demographic history.

Beginning more than a half-century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black ghettoization was bound up in the separation of most of the nation's black population from mainstream society, which limited blacks' access to schools, public services, private-sector amenities and, ultimately, opportunities for upward mobility. Black neighborhood segregation continued unabated until 1970, after which it began to loosen over the next two decades, with declines becoming more pervasive as the country approached the 21st century.

This pattern is depicted in the figure above, which shows average black-white segregation levels for U.S. metropolitan areas between 1930 and 2010. Segregation levels are measured by the "dissimilarity index," which, as used here, compares black and white population distributions across metropolitan neighborhoods. It ranges from a value of 0 (complete integration), where blacks and whites are distributed similarly across neighborhoods, to 100 (complete segregation), where blacks and whites live in completely different neighborhoods. Values can be interpreted as the percentage of blacks who would have to change neighborhoods to become completely integrated with whites. Values of 60 and above are considered high; values of 30 and below are considered low.

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The Great Migration and the Rise of Black Segregation

The Great Migration of blacks from the South to Northern cities was a major factor in the rise of black ghettos, which were later perpetuated by a host of private- and public-sector forces. The first wave of the Great Migration, between 1910 and 1930, drew large numbers of blacks to Northern cities including Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia. However, after arrival they found that they were allowed to live only in certain neighborhoods because of the white backlash against integration.

That backlash first erupted as open violence in the form of riots, bombings and other forms of intimidation to keep blacks from entering all-white neighborhoods. In addition, homeowner associations were formed to work with real estate agents and city planning offices to find ways to restrict black movement. One common device was to attach a restrictive covenant to a deed, specifying that a property could not be occupied by blacks or other groups deemed undesirable for a long period, such as 99 years. These covenants were deemed legal by the Supreme Court in 1926, a decision that was only overturned in 1948 at the behest of the NAACP.

A national survey in 1942 showed that 84 percent of whites agreed that "there should be separate sections in towns and cities for Negroes to live in."

Even when population pressure made black expansion into white neighborhoods inevitable, coalitions of real estate agents employed a strategy called blockbusting – inducing a black family to become the first black occupants in a neighborhood in order to scare resident whites into moving. Blockbusting ensured that black expansion could be restricted to selected neighborhoods as they turned over from white to black, and it enabled agents to reap above-market profits from black buyers. In 1940, black segregation already was high and most urban blacks lived in almost exclusively black ghettos. A national survey in 1942 showed that 84 percent of whites agreed that "there should be separate sections in towns and cities for Negroes to live in."

The second wave of the Great Migration took place during the post-World War II period, but for the most part, blacks were excluded from the postwar suburbanization movement. Again, strong resistance among whites to accepting blacks as neighbors led real estate agents to employ discriminatory practices in selling and renting homes, including the steering of blacks away from available white neighborhoods or the outright refusal to sell or rent homes to blacks in those locations. Local suburban governments also practiced exclusionary zoning to limit areas where blacks could obtain residences.

Lending practices such as "redlining" also were designed to restrict blacks, continuing a process that began in the 1930s. Their impact was magnified in the postwar period due to the expansion of mostly suburban housing and the availability of federally insured loans that, in practice, were given largely to whites. At the same time, the concentration of poor urban blacks in city neighborhoods was exacerbated by 1960s-era public housing programs that, while eliminating blighted ghetto neighborhoods, re-segregated black residents into large housing complexes.

Although heavily focused on cities in the Northeast and Midwest, these practices occurred in all regions of the country. In 1970, the average black-white segregation level among all metropolitan areas was well above 70. But in the large metropolitan areas where most blacks lived, segregation levels were much higher, with levels of 90 or more in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. Segregation levels greater than 80 were found in the Southern metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and Washington, D.C.

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Segregation in Decline

On the heels of large urban riots in the 1960s and the Kerner Commission's warning that America was evolving into two racially and spatially separated societies, Congress passed the 1968 Fair Housing Act – key civil rights legislation that prohibited racial bias in the sale and rental of housing and, by extension, discouraged racial segregation.

These events raised awareness of the hardship that extreme racial segregation was imposing on blacks, cities and the society at large. Soon thereafter, as part of the "open housing" movement, additional legislation and court decisions as well as government and citizen-initiated efforts were put in action to discourage discriminatory lending and real estate practices. For example, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act required financial institutions to report information on the race and income of those who obtained or were denied mortgages.

Segregation began to decline between 1970 and 1980, although the greatest declines occurred in modest-size metropolitan areas in the South and West that housed relatively small numbers of blacks. Unlike with other groups, an increase in income or educational attainment for black households did not translate into access to appreciably more integrated or higher status neighborhoods. Areas with the largest, most concentrated black populations, including Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, remained highly segregated, with minimal black suburbanization. On average, large non-Southern metropolitan areas showed declines of fewer than 5 points in segregation between 1970 and 1980.

Although all minority groups still show a preference for members of their own group as neighbors, there is also tolerance for other groups — particularly in multiracial settings.

In American Apartheid, published in 1998, Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton argued that the open housing efforts in the immediate post-civil rights years had little impact on the strong institutional forces that maintained segregation.

In spite of legislation, an array of informal and quasi-legal discriminatory practices on the part of the real estate industry and financial institutions continued, some of which were documented in housing market "auditing" investigations by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Yet declines in black-white segregation continued between 1980 and 1990, again with the greatest reductions occurring in Southern and Western cities – including those with considerable black populations. Between 1970 and 1990, segregation levels declined from 87 to 63 in Dallas, from 82 to 66 in Atlanta, and from 78 to 66 in Houston.

Many of these areas were beginning to attract black migrants, part of the emerging reverse black movement to the South. The overall population gains in these areas, part of a general migration to the Sun Belt, helped to trigger increased suburban development and growth. Because substantial suburban growth in these areas took place after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the impact of that law in reducing segregation was greater there than in more stagnant areas of the country.

The large Northern areas with the highest segregation levels were still most resistant to integration. As of 1990, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit continued to show segregation levels above 80, and the majority of their Northern counterparts registered levels in the high 70s or above. Most of these areas had relatively modest growth and therefore little new housing compared with their Southern and Western counterparts. Within them, old stereotypes persisted about which communities were appropriate for whites and blacks, with whites expressing a strong distaste for integrated neighborhoods.

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The Beginnings of Black-White Integration

The 2010 census shows that black-white segregation is still quite evident in the United States. But it also reveals forces that will lead to an easing of segregation to well below the ghettoized patterns of the mid-20th century. Among all metropolitan areas, the average segregation level is 47. Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, including those with the largest black populations, segregation stands at 55 – well below the levels of 70 or more in the immediate postwar decades. A total of 93 of these areas showed declines in segregation between 1990 and 2010, making neighborhoods without any black residents extremely rare.

Some of the trends spurring these shifts were suggested in the 1990s. One is the continued decline in segregation in Southern areas that are magnets for both blacks and whites, as well as in areas in the West where new suburban housing continues to be constructed. As more of the black population moves to these areas, fewer of the nation's blacks will live in highly segregated neighborhoods.

The pattern of declining segregation is beginning to spread outward from Atlanta, Dallas and other larger Southern metropolitan areas. For example, Tampa, Bradenton and Lakeland (all in Florida) are among the cities where segregation has declined markedly since 1990.

In the North, black population losses in cities, the demolition of large public housing projects and increased suburbanization of blacks are contributing to declines in segregation. In Detroit, segregation levels declined from 88 in 1990 to 75 in 2010. Chicago and Cleveland, among others, also experienced marked declines during this period.

Another impetus toward less segregation is the growth of the Hispanic and Asian populations. Although all minority groups still show a preference for members of their own group as neighbors, there is also tolerance for other groups – particularly in multiracial settings. That leaves open the possibility that in metropolitan areas where blacks are one of two or more major minority groups, other minorities can serve to buffer these divisions.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there already was a marked tendency for black-white segregation to decline in multiracial metropolitan areas, especially those in Melting Pot regions such as Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and Riverside (Calif.). The 2010 census shows that some of the lowest black-white segregation scores are in areas with large or growing new minority populations, including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Riverside, Tucson, Stockton and San Antonio. Several Southeastern areas that have had notable recent declines in black-white segregation, such as the cities in Florida cited above, also are home to substantial Hispanic populations. The increased multiracial character of New Sun Belt metropolitan areas, both inside and outside the South, should pave the way for even further attenuation of segregation in metropolitan areas.

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Another reason to expect further meaningful declines in black-white segregation is the emergence of the black middle class, along with the increased ability of blacks to translate economic advancement into housing in less segregated and higher quality neighborhoods. Because of the refusal of whites to accept any blacks in their neighborhoods, there was scant evidence as recently as 1980 of any translation of improvement in blacks' personal economic circumstances into better neighborhood quality.

White attitudes began to change in the 1990s. Although still more limited by persistent discriminatory attitudes and social inertia than Hispanics and Asians, upper-income and more educated blacks are now more able to live in integrated, affluent neighborhoods than blacks who are less well off. Segregation is also less prevalent in metropolitan areas where there is greater convergence of black and white incomes. The upward mobility of a segment of the black population now brings the promise of greater declines in segregation.

The current geography of black-white segregation shows a noticeable regional difference, but segregation scores are generally lower than in 1990. Among 87 large areas with at least minimal black populations, 47 areas, located primarily in the South and West, show scores below a "high" value of 60. In contrast, in 1990 only 29 areas registered such scores. Among the new areas with segregation levels below 60 are Atlanta, Louisville, Dallas, Nashville and Tampa. Three Northern metros, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Des Moines and Providence, also fell below 60. About one-fifth of these metros have segregation scores below 50, including Western metros such as Phoenix and Las Vegas and Southeastern metros such as Charleston and Raleigh.

Even more revealing is the reduction of segregation in areas with traditionally higher levels of separation.

Each of the areas with segregation levels of 60 or more showed declines – by more than 5 points for most – since 1990. In 1990, 27 areas had segregation scores exceeding 70, with five areas (Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Buffalo) exceeding 80. By 2010, only seven areas were above that level, and only one (Milwaukee) stayed above 80. A number of forces – increased black suburbanization, demolition of urban public housing, losses of black residents and some reduction in the discriminatory practices of financial institutions and real estate agents – are contributing to new reductions in segregation in places where, until recently, segregation would not budge.

The recent widespread reduction in black-white segregation should not be confused with its elimination. Segregation levels in the 50 to 60 range, found in many large metropolitan areas, are still substantial by any reasonable standard. Social and demographic inertia, particularly in older, slower-growing metropolitan areas, still isolates many black children in high-poverty areas in ways that perpetuate disadvantages across generations and deprive a substantial segment of the black population of the wherewithal to relocate to higher quality communities.

Yet new forces affecting black-white segregation are ushering in an era that will be quite different from the era of wholesale ghettoization of the black population 50 years ago. The shift of the black population to more prosperous areas in the South, the movement of younger generations of blacks to the suburbs, the general change in racial relations among blacks and whites, and the substantial period that fair housing laws and practices have had to take root have dramatically expanded the opportunities to increase integration.

Moreover, the growth and dispersion of new minority groups to all parts of the country, especially to the New Sun Belt where all groups are moving, have the potential to ease the animosities associated with the longstanding black-white divide. Asian, Hispanic and soon multiracial groups will serve to buffer those animosities at the neighborhood and community levels.

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Hispanic and Asian Segregation in Flux

The severity and persistence of black segregation in the 20th century stand in contrast to the lower, more transitory segregation trends of earlier white immigrant groups as well as to the current segregation patterns of Hispanics and Asians. Both Hispanics and Asians owe their growth in numbers to the more open immigration laws since 1965, and like earlier groups, they have continued to disperse across the country. Hispanic and Asian segregation levels are, on average, markedly lower than those for blacks. Yet as black segregation levels continue to decrease for the majority of metropolitan areas, no similar trend exists for the newer minorities. In fact, among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, average Hispanic and Asian segregation appears flat between 2000 and 2010 after increasing somewhat in the 1990s.

Although this may not appear to follow the transitory paths of ethnic immigrants a century ago, there is an important caveat. Both Hispanic and Asian communities continue to be replenished with new immigrants, whose segregation levels are higher than those of their native-born counterparts. So the average "static" segregation picture for Hispanics and Asians conflates both a turn toward integration among long-term residents and higher segregation levels among new immigrants.

In Where We Live Now, the sociologist John Iceland of Penn State provides evidence that "spatial assimilation" into more integrated neighborhoods is occurring among Hispanics and Asians who have lived in the United States the longest and among those who were born in the United States. It is also the case that Hispanic and Asian residents with higher incomes and education are able to translate their status into residence in more integrated neighborhoods. These trends play out across individual metropolitan areas that vary in size, growth and makeup with regard to their Hispanic and Asian groups. Because there is no typical segregation pattern for metropolitan areas, it is useful to see how they differ.

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Hispanic Segregation Across Metropolitan Areas

Hispanic segregation patterns vary across regions of the country, reflecting Hispanic settlement histories and the locations of primary Hispanic groups. The map above displays Hispanic-white segregation levels in 2010 for 93 large metropolitan areas with a significant Hispanic population. Segregation levels range from a low value of 25 to a high value of 63. Two kinds of metropolitan areas are positioned at the upper end of the Hispanic segregation spectrum. First are the areas that are home to the largest Hispanic populations and have served as major gateways for Hispanic immigration. Both Los Angeles and New York have segregation levels of 62. Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and Houston register scores of 50 or higher. Segregation in most of these areas did not change dramatically in the past two decades because these areas continue to attract new immigrants who begin to establish themselves in clustered racial enclaves.

A second set of areas with Hispanic-white segregation levels above 50 are in the Northeast and Midwest, particularly those areas with large Puerto Rican enclaves. This includes a swath of areas of all sizes in New England and Pennsylvania, including Boston, Providence, Philadelphia and Allentown. Also included in this group are industrial areas such as Milwaukee, Cleveland and Buffalo.

Metropolitan areas with lower Hispanic-white segregation levels – in the 40s and below – are spread over the country, especially in the South and interior West. These tend to be areas in which Mexicans are the primary Hispanic group and areas with small or quickly growing Hispanic populations. Among the larger areas in this category are Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville in the South, and Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City in the West. The smaller areas are located in swaths of New Sun Belt states in the Southeast, Mountain West and interior California.

One of the reasons that Hispanic segregation, on average, has not declined is that segregation is increasing in many of the new destination metropolitan areas that have attracted Hispanics as part of the larger dispersion phenomenon.

These areas have lured Hispanics who are more likely to be foreign-born, to be less fluent in English and to have lower levels of education attainment than Hispanics residing in other kinds of areas. As a consequence, these Hispanics are less likely to assimilate quickly, especially in places where the Hispanic population is new and subject to indifferent or discriminatory behavior on the part of established whites and blacks.

The table above lists large areas with the greatest increase in Hispanic segregation between 1990 and 2010. For the most part, these are new Hispanic destinations, located primarily in the South, including Nashville, Memphis, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and Atlanta. New destinations outside the South, Scranton and Indianapolis, also showed noticeable gains in segregation.

Overall, 27 of the 93 metropolitan areas showed meaningful (at least 10-point) gains in segregation during the two-decade period. In most of these areas, the Hispanic population is small, new and rapidly growing. And in all but three (Miami, Scranton and Memphis), the 2010 segregation levels were relatively low – below 50, and in several cases in the 30s. In Raleigh, for example, the Hispanic population grew more than 150 percent as its segregation level rose from 20 in 1990 to 37 in 2010.

So, at present, the Hispanic population is dispersing away from highly segregated areas to new areas that provide greater opportunities than earlier gateway regions. Even though new Hispanic enclaves are making these new destinations more segregated than before, they are still less segregated than the former gateway areas. In addition, if these new residents are able to translate their opportunities into economic mobility for themselves and their children, they will be following the trajectories of earlier immigrant and racial groups toward even greater integration.

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Asians residing in many new destinations have high education attainment, so segregation in these areas does not conform to the low-skilled profile associated with some Hispanic and immigrant groups.
Asian Segregation Across Metropolitan Areas

The Asian population is growing even more rapidly than the Hispanic population. Well over half of Asians in the United States are foreign-born and they are far more concentrated in established gateway areas than Hispanics are. But there is still variation across metropolitan areas in Asian-white segregation levels. Among the 45 largest metropolitan areas with significant Asian populations, segregation levels range from 29 (for Las Vegas) to 52 (for New York).

Metropolitan areas that have served as traditional Asian immigrant gateways tend to have higher levels of Asian-white segregation. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco register segregation levels in the 47 to 52 range, though those levels are markedly lower than for Hispanics. Other areas with segregation levels exceeding the mid-40s tend to be those with large established Asian populations (Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, Boston and Chicago), those with quickly growing Asian populations (Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Raleigh), and a few older Northeast and Midwest areas (Philadelphia, Detroit and Wichita). Areas with the lowest levels of Asian segregation tend to be in the Mountain West (Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Denver), Florida (Orlando and Jacksonville), interior California (Modesto and Fresno) and "suburban-like" areas (Oxnard and Bridgeport) that are near major metros.

Changes in Asian segregation for individual areas are not as pronounced as changes in Hispanic segregation, although areas experiencing large Asian population increases, including new Asian destinations, experienced higher segregation in 2010 than in 1990. Among areas showing a 20-year increase in segregation of at least 5 points are Richmond, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Orlando and Phoenix. Most of these areas have modest or low levels of segregation. Other areas with established Asian populations, such as Los Angeles and San Jose, showed only small increases in segregation.

Asians residing in many new destinations have high educational attainment, so segregation in these areas does not conform to the low-skilled profile associated with some Hispanic and immigrant groups. Yet if the past experiences of other Asians and other immigrant groups are an indicator, their segregation levels should decline with increased length of residence in their new locations.

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Toward New Multiracial Neighborhoods

I've focused thus far on segregation levels as measured by the dissimilarity index. Although it serves its purpose, in a sense the measure is detached from reality because it does not give an on-the-ground picture of the kinds of neighborhoods in which a typical white, black, Hispanic or Asian resides. That is because real-world neighborhoods are composed of multiple racial groups, not just pairings of one group with whites. Furthermore, the size of each racial group in a given neighborhood is affected by the overall racial makeup of the metropolitan area.

For example, an average neighborhood in a multiracial metropolitan area like Los Angeles will look very different from an average neighborhood in a much whiter metro like Minneapolis-St. Paul. Both areas show some segregation between whites and blacks, Hispanics and Asians. But there are many more minorities in Los Angeles than in Minneapolis-St. Paul, meaning that an average neighborhood where whites live in Los Angeles will be more diverse than an average neighborhood where whites live in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The figure to the left shows the neighborhood racial composition for the average resident of each racial group in Los Angeles. The average white Los Angeles resident does, indeed, live in a neighborhood that has a healthy smattering of Hispanics and some black and Asian residents. But there are also far more white residents – 54 percent – in this average neighborhood than in neighborhoods that are home to the average black, Hispanic or Asian. So segregation still matters in the way that it affects on-the-ground neighborhoods, even in Los Angeles.

Detroit is a stagnating metropolitan area. Atlanta has been the primary magnet for black migrants and has also experienced rapid growth in its Hispanic and Asian populations.

That is not to say there are no neighborhoods that are completely white or completely Hispanic in Los Angeles. But, on average, residents of each race (especially Hispanics) are somewhat exposed to members of all races. The multiracial character of the Los Angeles region does spill over across the area's neighborhoods. Such spillover is also seen in many of the other places in the Melting Pot regions of the country.

Of course, the situation is different in regions that have quite different racial makeups. Both Detroit and Atlanta are metros in which blacks are the predominant minority. Yet they also differ in important respects. Detroit is a stagnating metropolitan area, located in the nation's Heartland region. It has lost black migrants for decades while registering only modest population gains from other minorities. In contrast, Atlanta has been the primary magnet for black migrants and has also experienced rapid growth in its Hispanic and Asian populations.

Moreover, in recent decades, black migration waves included many middle-class blacks and occurred in a post-civil rights environment in which new residential development was subject to stricter antidiscrimination regulations. For these reasons (among others), Atlanta witnessed a greater decline in black-white segregation than Detroit did.

A comparison of typical white and black neighborhoods in each metropolitan area shows noticeable differences. In both, the average white person lives in a neighborhood that is mostly white. But in Detroit, whites constitute 83 percent of white resident neighborhoods while in Atlanta whites make up just 67 percent of white resident neighborhoods. Blacks in Atlanta also live in neighborhoods that are somewhat more integrated, with greater percentages of whites and Hispanics and smaller percentages of same-race neighbors than one finds in Detroit.

Of course, even in Atlanta, there is a high rate of segregation. Blacks, on average, live in neighborhoods that are more than one-half black while whites live in neighborhoods that are two-thirds white. But the segregation in Atlanta is becoming less extreme.

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A National Neighborhood Snapshot

America's racial mosaic is changing in cities, suburbs, states and regions. Although the broad Melting Pot, New Sun Belt and Heartland regions are still somewhat distinct, the dispersion of new minorities virtually everywhere and the continuing southward movement of blacks are leading to shifts that will, for the most part, blur long-maintained spatial divisions, even at the neighborhood level. Therefore, it is useful to observe the kind of neighborhood in which the "average" white, black, Hispanic and Asian resident lives to provide a benchmark of where things stood at the time of the 2010 census. This picture is given in the figure to the left, which is drawn from all of the neighborhoods in the United States – including those in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas of all sizes and in every part of the country – for the average resident of each racial group.

The average white resident, for example, lives in a far less diverse neighborhood – one that is more than three-quarters white – than residents of any other group. Nonetheless, the average white person today lives in a neighborhood that includes more minorities than was the case in 1980, when such neighborhoods were nearly 90 percent white. Moreover, the average member of each of the nation's major minority groups lives in a neighborhood that is at least one-third white, and in the case of Asians, nearly one-half white. Hence, there is a tendency toward more integrated living among these groups as more minorities relocate to white-dominated or multiracial neighborhoods.

One issue that is especially important is the segregation of minority children into neighborhoods and school districts that often have fewer resources and show poorer overall performance. National statistics comparing neighborhood profiles for average black, Hispanic and Asian children show them to be decidedly more exposed to members of their own racial group – or having less contact with whites – than is the case for their adult population.

In part, that reflects a continuing tendency for white families to choose local areas with better resources and schools and fewer minorities than the local areas that are available to minorities. Given today's more diverse youth and their important role in the future workforce, the inequality of opportunities associated with their segregation across neighborhoods needs to be addressed.

Still, overall, population shifts that are bringing Hispanics and Asians to previously whiter New Sun Belt and Heartland regions will almost certainly continue to alter the neighborhood experiences of these groups by bringing them into more contact with whites than was the case in the past. The nation's blacks have seen a marked shift from a mostly ghettoized existence five decades ago to one that more closely follows the path of other racial minorities and immigrant groups as more blacks move to more suburban and integrated communities, particularly in the South. So the broader migration patterns of blacks, Hispanics and Asians are moving in the direction of greater neighborhood racial integration, even if segregation is far from eliminated.

main topic: Demographics
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