Taking another angle on residential integration (based on data from the American Community Survey – also reported on here) suggests it is a very slow process. Two sociologists suggest some has changed – metropolitan whites now on average live in neighborhoods that are 74% white (the figure was 88% in 1980). But minorities still have similar segregation figures to 2000:
•Black-white segregation averaged 65.2 in 2000 and 62.7 now.
•Hispanic-white segregation was 51.6 in 2000 vs. 50 today.
•Asian-white segregation has grown from 42.1 to 45.9.
This index score (and I think this is a dissimilarity index) ranges from 0 to 100 with a score of 0 meaning that two groups are completely integrated while a score of 100 means that two groups live completely separately or in different neighborhoods.
Based on this analysis, it looks like the issue of residential segregation is one that will be with us for a long time yet. While there was improvement for some groups, there were negative or very limited changes for other groups. All that said, residential segregation looks like it is still an entrenched feature of American life.
Residential segregation, primarily between whites and blacks, is a critical issue when considering the historical development and current state of American development patterns and way of life. But new findings from the most recent American Community Survey (the Census Bureau’s yearly survey) suggest that segregation levels have decreased in many cities:
Atlanta is one of several predominantly Southern and Western cities that showed a noticeable integration trend over the last five years as both middle-class blacks and whites moved into each other’s neighborhoods, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 10 million Americans, released Tuesday…
Seventy-five percent of the largest 100 US metro areas showed neighborhood segregation rates slipping to levels not seen for more than a century…
Ethnic integration failed to show the same kind of gains…
It isn’t that the North, which has lagged behind the South and West in integration rates, has dramatically different attitudes on race. Rather, new housing and job opportunities in the South and West have helped to spur integration there.
This is interesting, and potentially uplifting, news. A number of sociologists have called attention to this issue in recent decades, perhaps most notably in American Apartheid published in the early 1990s. Recent maps show that many cities have a highly visible divide between different population groups. With these recent findings, the question may now be: how much more integration might we see in American cities? Is this a short-term trend or is this indicative of a slow, steady rise of integration in American cities?
What I would like to see is a more specific breakdown of what cities improved on integration and which did not. The article suggests that cities in the South and West had increasing rates of integration while segregation decreased less in the North. This is a reminder that in American cities, segregation has been more prominent in northern cities, what scholars (according to the article) call “the ghetto belt.” Are there lessons from the cities that improved in integration that can be exported to other cities?
Additionally, how have segregation/integration rates changed in suburbs or perhaps in whole metropolitan regions?
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “”11 o’clock Sunday is still the most segregated hour of the week.” Recent sociological evidence lends weight to King’s observation:
According to a study published in the latest issue of Sociological Inquiry, 9 in 10 Christian congregations in America have a single racial group that accounts for more than 80 percent of membership. A similar study 10 years ago found a remarkably similar ratio.
There is a growing amount of sociological research on this topic. One body of research looks at how difficult it is create and then maintain a multiracial congregation. Even if one is created intentionally, it takes a lot of work to maintain this as a too large population of one racial or ethnic group can accelerate the departure of other groups. To learn more, read People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States.
Interesting story about schools in North Carolina struggling with this issue: how to create diverse “community schools.” The article details some of the integration efforts and their degrees of success.
A confounding factor: many of the people in the area, nearly 50% in Wake County, were born outside the state and haven’t experienced the long history of integration efforts.