Predicting resegregation in 35% of metro area neighborhoods

A new study looks at the possibility of numerous metropolitan neighborhoods becoming less diverse in the coming decades:

Neighborhood integration is a great goal, but just because a place is currently home to more than one race doesn’t mean it will retain this diversity in the decades to come. A new study published in Sociological Science explores this potential future for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston. It finds that 35 percent of all neighborhoods in these cities—around 3,800 total—are likely to resegregate in the next two decades…

Bader’s analysis predicts that, in the next two decades, many of the neighborhoods in the pale green (“steady black succession”), navy blue (“Latino enclaves”), royal blue (“early Latino growth, white decline”), teal (“early Latino growth, black decline”), sky blue (“recent Latino growth”), and pink (Asian growth) categories are the ones where a single racial group will become dominant over time. Here’s Bader on that process, again via the study website:

“We were disappointed to learn that many integrated neighborhoods were actually experiencing slow, but steady resegregation — a process that we call “gradual succession.” The process tended to concentrate Blacks into small areas of cities and inner-ring suburbs while scattering many Latinos and Asians into segregating neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, the fuchsia “quadrivial” neighborhoods, located in the suburbs like Aliso Viejo, California, and Naperville, Illinois, are likely to retain their diversity for some time. (Of course, as my colleague Amanda Kolson Hurley has noted, in general, diverse suburbs aren’t immune to the threat of resegregation.) Despite fair housing and civil rights legislations, housing discrimination is an ongoing problem with multigenerational effects—and one of the possible reasons behind the trends Bader has highlighted in the study. Another is the tendency of white Americans to self-segregate.

Given the complexity of race and ethnicity in the United States plus its regular manifestation in residential patterns, this makes sense. Just because certain locations were once diverse doesn’t mean they will remain so in the future. City neighborhoods provide plenty of examples of this, whether looking at places that have had waves of immigrant groups or other locations where blacks moved in and whites never returned. And that these patterns will be reproduced across suburban areas has already been happening for decades.

What seems to be new here is the possibility of predicting these changes. If a suburban community knew that demographic change was likely, would they do things differently? Or, how about a city neighborhood that had a particular character and identity? Now that there are scholars out there working on this, might the research itself have an effect on future population changes?

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