Urban residential segregation continues to decline

Analysis of recent Census data suggests residential segregation is decreasing in many cities:

Between 2000 and 2014, segregation between blacks and whites declined in almost all of the nation’s 53 metropolitan areas with a population of over a million, the analysis shows.

Some of the biggest declines occurred in cities long divided by race, including Detroit and Chicago, but the progress was more modest in New York and Los Angeles, the nation’s two largest metropolitan areas…

But the migration into suburbs isn’t the whole story. Detroit and Kansas City, Mo., for instance, had the two biggest gains in integration, but while the change in Kansas City came from a large movement of blacks from the central city to the suburbs, the drop in Detroit’s segregation level reflected many blacks leaving the region entirely, said John Logan, a sociologist at Brown University who studies residential diversity.

Logan attributed most of the decline in segregation to what he called the phenomenon of “global neighborhoods” — areas that were once all white where blacks have moved into, typically after Latinos, sometimes along with Asians, had integrated the neighborhood.

Three quick thoughts:

  1. This is a reminder that the effects of race and ethnicity on neighborhoods and communities has changed in recent decades from a strong white-black divide to a more mixed movement of people.
  2. On the other side, even with the spreading out of Latinos and Asians, there are persistent divides between blacks and whites. In other words, we cannot point to many (any?) neighborhoods that have gone from black to white though some black neighborhoods have become less black.
  3. It is interesting to monitor these changes over time but I would be interested to know what the “desirable” desegregation numbers are. For example, the dissimilarity index suggests what percent of the minority group would need to move to be spread out throughout a region. Do sociologists expect the dissimilarity index to hit 0 or is there a threshold that would be good for society and the groups involved?

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