Over the past 70 years, housing segregation in America has decreased to the point where most African Americans no longer live in neighborhoods that are mostly black, said Mary Pattillo, a Northwestern University sociology professor who spoke Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Race and Social Problems.
Ms. Pattillo, who studies and writes about the black middle class and residential patterns, said that from 1940 to 2010, the percentage of African Americans nationwide who lived in a majority-black neighborhood fell from 62 percent to 42 percent. Even in the Chicago metro area, which historically has had high segregation rates, the percentage living in majority black neighborhoods fell from 90 percent in 1940 to 68 percent today…
Efforts to reduce official housing discrimination and the rise of the black middle class have led to many more African Americans living in the suburbs. And while many suburbs have become mostly black, the majority of them have not, she said.
Another national trend that has reduced the concentration of blacks in certain city neighborhoods has been the destruction of large public housing complexes and their replacement with more mixed-income housing plans.
Finally, in many major metropolitan areas, the growth of the Latino population has created many mixed black-Hispanic neighborhoods. South Central Los Angeles, long an iconic black region, is now mostly Latino, she noted.
Still, the news is not all good even if residential segregation has declined.
1. Residential segregation for blacks is still persistent and white-black segregation is still higher than for other groups.
2. Moving to the suburbs or altering housing projects may be good but it doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes. What are the economic conditions in these suburbs (often majority-minority communities and/or inner-ring suburbs) or where do these public housing residents go (it is unknown or to similarly poor neighborhoods)?
3. Declining residential segregation may need time before we can see significant effects. Simply moving poor black residents to communities with more resources – like in the Gautreaux Program or Moving To Opportunity – doesn’t immediately change things. It may be a generation or two before we see improvement.