Chicago named 3rd most segregated city in the country

A piece in the Chicago Reader discusses the results of a new University of Michigan study that showed Chicago is the third most segregated city in the country, trailing only New York City and Milwaukee. A few notes about this study:

1. Like many other studies of its ilk, this is based on dissimiliarity index scores. Here is how this is calculated:

The dissimilarity index is a system used by sociologists to measure segregation, with the highest score – meaning total segregation – being 100. The lowest – complete integration – is 0. The numbers reflect the percentage of people from one race (black and white are measured here) that would have to move in order to create complete integration.

There are some other measures like this with different calculations but the dissimilarity index seems to be used most often. There are a number of easily-found sites online that provide instructions on how to calculate the dissimilarity index (here is eHow’s explanation).

2. The Chicago Reader article and another piece at Salon (with some nice maps and explanations for each city) focus on white-black segregation. The original study also calculated the dissimilarity index for other pairs of races, such as whites and Latinos. These figures are generally lower than those for whites and blacks as the Great Migration of blacks from the south prompted increasing levels of segregation in Midwest and Northeastern cities during the early decades of the 1900s.

In terms of the white-Hispanic findings from the original study, the top 5 segregated cities are Springfield, MA, Los Angeles, New York, Providence, and Boston. On this list, Chicago is tenth.

The original study also look at white-Asian segregation: the top 5 cities here were Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New York, Syracuse, and Baton Rouge.

3. A little more on interpreting the figures regarding Chicago:

-Along with the other 52 most white-black segregated cities, Chicago had a drop (4.8) in its dissimilarity index between 2000 and 2010.  The 53rd city, Greensboro, NC, was the first on the list to have an increase (0.9).

-In the Salon piece, there is a little bit of history about how this segregation came to be in Chicago and black migration, public housing, interstates, and Mayor Daley are mentioned. The conclusion is this:

Oak Park was one of a handful of places around the country where progressive whites made common cause with blacks. But in the Chicago area, it’s the exception, not the rule. Today, middle-income blacks are increasingly moving into Chicago’s suburbs. And though Quillian says that there isn’t white flight like there was in the past, many communities appear to be resegregating. The problem now is white avoidance.

It would be interesting to hear more about this idea of “white avoidance.”

-The Chicago Reader piece also suggests that Pekin, Illinois (a town whose high school has had some issues regarding race and its mascot – link from Wikipedia) is the most segregated city (white-black) in Illinois. However, the story doesn’t add the caution regarding Pekin: there are 857 blacks in the community. The CensusScope page of Illinois cities by dissimilarity index adds this disclaimer:

When a group’s population is small, its dissimilarity index may be high even if the group’s members are evenly distributed throughout the area. Thus, when a group’s population is less than 1,000, exercise caution in interpreting its dissimilarity indices.

It would be helpful if this were added to the story regarding Pekin.

Number of multiracial Americans grows in 2010 Census

In the 2000 Census, respondents were able to indicate for the first time that they are multiracial. The latest figures from the 2010 Census suggest that the multiracial population is growing at higher than expected rates:

In the first comprehensive accounting of multiracial Americans since statistics were first collected about them in 2000, reporting from the 2010 census, made public in recent days, shows that the nation’s mixed-race population is growing far more quickly than many demographers had estimated, particularly in the South and parts of the Midwest. That conclusion is based on the bureau’s analysis of 42 states; the data from the remaining eight states will be released this week.

In North Carolina, the mixed-race population doubled. In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent, and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee. In Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, the multiracial population increased by about 70 percent.

“Anything over 50 percent is impressive,” said William H. Frey, a sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution…

Census officials were expecting a national multiracial growth rate of about 35 percent since 2000, when seven million people — 2.4 percent of the population — chose more than one race. Officials have not yet announced a national growth rate, but it seems sure to be closer to 50 percent.

This is interesting data, particularly since these figures exceed expectations. There are several issues to note with the data. First, some of the largest growth is taking places in states like Mississippi where there is a large percentage increase because there were so few interracial people in the 2000 Census. A second question we could ask about this data is whether this is primarily an increase in multiracial relationships or is it simply a reflection of changing measurements from the US Census? One sociologist suggests the second option could be plausible:

“The reality is that there has been a long history of black and white relationships — they just weren’t public,” said Prof. Matthew Snipp, a demographer in the sociology department at Stanford University. Speaking about the mixed-race offspring of some of those relationships, he added: “People have had an entire decade to think about this since it was first a choice in 2000. Some of these figures are not so much changes as corrections. In a sense, they’re rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed.”

So then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by these large increases in percentages; rather, we have better instruments by which to collect this data.

This Census data does seems to line up with changing attitudes about interracial relationships. In a recent story from Pew Research about what 90% of Americans can agree about, Pew showed how the approval of interracial relationships has grown a lot in the last several decades:

It is remarkable how this has jumped from 48% in 1987 to 83% approval in 2009. But if there is more approval for interracial relationships, then there is likely to be more relationships, marriages, and eventually children who identify as multiracial.

An argument: Democrats need candidates who can appeal to white voters

This is an issue I’ve seen mentioned in a few places now: the Democratic Party has some difficulty in recruiting minority candidates who can win the white support that is needed to be able to be elected for offices beyond the House. Here is some of the analysis from National Journal:

Of the 75 black, Hispanic, and Asian-American Democrats in Congress and governorships, only nine represent majority-white constituencies—and that declines to six in 2011. Two of the party’s rising black stars who sought statewide office this year were rejected by their party’s own base. And when you only look at members of Congress or governors elected by majority-white constituencies (in other words, most of the governorships and Senate seats, and 337 out of 435 House seats), Democrats trail Republicans in minority representation.

In fact, Republicans experienced a diversity boomlet this year. Cognizant of their stuffy national image, party leaders made a concerted effort to recruit a more diverse crop of candidates. That resulted in more than doubling the number of minority elected officials from six to 13—and a ten-fold increase (from one to 10) in the number of minorities representing majority-white constituencies.

The numbers reflect an inconvenient reality—even with their more diverse caucus, Democrats face the same challenges as Republicans in recruiting, nominating, and electing minority candidates to statewide office and in majority-white suburban and rural districts. The vast majority of black and Hispanic members hail from urban districts that don’t require crossover votes to win, or represent seats designed to elect minorities. They are more liberal than the average Democrat, no less the average voter, making it more difficult to run statewide campaigns.

These are far from trivial facts. This means Democrats lack a bench of minority candidates who can run for statewide office, no less national office. Most Democratic minorities make a career in the House, accruing seniority and influence but lacking broad-based political support.

How this issue is addressed by both political parties could have a significant impact on American politics in the next few decades. As the demographics in America continue to change away from a large white majority, I would expect that more minority candidates will be elected to such offices. But whether these changes reflect, even roughly, the demographics of the country or specific states, remains to be seen.

How to keep the seat next to you on the train empty

Chris Wilson examines an argument recently made by a writer about how he is able to keep the seat next to him on the train empty:

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Wideman describes how, during his regular commute between New York City and Providence on the Acela, he almost always enjoys a double seat to himself. I call that divine intervention. He chalks it up, after considering and rejecting the alternatives, to being black…

Wideman, a successful writer, describes his observations as a “casual sociological experiment.” But he lacks any controlled variables. Granted, the only direct way I can think of to test his hypothesis would be to adjust his complexion while holding everything else—dress, demeanor, reading material—as constant as possible. The ethics of doing this notwithstanding, the makeup is murderous to your pores.

A couple of thoughts:

1. It would not surprise me at all if race was the important factor in this situation.

2. But this is a nice illustration of how one could go about testing this hypothesis: devise an experiment where the person next to the empty seat alters their appearance/features and then sees how people respond.