Putting a price tag on Chicago’s segregation

A new report from the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Urban Institute suggests Chicago pays a high price for segregation:

The seven-county area’s murder rate could be cut by 30 percent, its economy could churn out an additional $8 billion in goods and services and its African-American residents could earn another $3,000 a year if it could reduce racial and economic segregation to the median level for the nation’s largest metro areas.

And 83,000 more residents could have earned bachelor’s degrees, spurring another $90 billion in collective lifetime earnings…

While the seven-county region has seen a slow reduction in racial and economic segregation between 1990 and 2010, it remained fifth-worst among the nation’s 100 most populous metro areas in 2010, the most recent full census year, the study found. The region includes Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties.

While segregation might benefit some – typically those who already have power and resources – this study suggests it harms the whole. Viewing issues of race, class, and gender might come down to these different perspectives of society: is it a zero-sum game where someone must lose for others to get ahead or can the pie be made bigger for everyone to share from? Take, for example, a period of history that is often held up as a good one for the entire country. The decades following World War II involved economic growth for most Americans as well as social change (Civil Rights, addressing poverty in cities and rural areas, the Great Society, etc.). We can’t recreate that period – it was contingent on a variety of other factors including winning World War II (and decimated economies elsewhere in the world) and the pent-up demand for many things after both a major war and the biggest global depression – but we could aim for policies that would help many people at all.

Urban segregation leads to bad outcomes – and what if the city is okay with this?

Following recent events in Milwaukee, NYMag summarizes some of the sociological research on urban segregation. As noted, the results of persistent segregation are not good.

However, what if this segregation is desired by the city or by large percentages of residents, whites in particular? The outcomes of segregation may be bad but the alternative might be considered worse: whites would have to live near blacks and share more resources and social spaces. With segregation, the problems are largely confined to certain areas (though there can be widespread fear if bad things happen in whiter and safer areas) and can be explained away by being attributed to particular groups. The segregation can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: there are neighborhoods for different groups because these sorts of things keep happening.

At some point, the negative consequences of segregation may be too much to ignore and stronger action might be taken. One good example is the destruction of public housing high-rises in many cities in order to deconcentrate poverty. City and national leaders perceived that something needed to be done. Yet, less provision was made for helping residents move elsewhere and find better opportunities. A less helpful example might be the uptick in shootings in Chicago: this is widely decried by leaders and the public but will much action be taken to (1) counter segregation and (2) provide more economic opportunities? At the moment, it appears not.

tl;dr: the outcomes of segregation are bad but how much will is there to consider alternatives?

Increasing racial segregation in the American workplace

Two sociologists argue there is evidence that some American workplaces have become more racially segregated in recent decades:

The results of our research found in part that there has been a trend toward racial re-segregation among white men and black men since 2000 and increased segregation since 1970 between black women and white women in American workplaces — so much so that it has eliminated progress made in the late 1960s. This is not simply an academic question, but a fundamental problem with American society. While most of us morally embrace equal opportunity and race and gender equality, we find that America is still a long way from those commitments. Only by confronting our shortcomings as a society can we address them…Distressingly, 19 of the 58 industries we surveyed — nearly one-third of all industries — showed a trend toward racial re-segregation between white men and black men over the last dozen years. Transportation services, motion pictures, construction, securities and commodities brokerages are some of the sectors that reflect this trend. In addition, re-segregation since 1970 between black and white women in workplaces has eliminated progress made in the late 1960s.

Transportation services, railroads, publishing and many low-wage manufacturing industries show increased segregation between black and white women. Unfortunately, increased access to private sector managerial jobs for black men and black women came to a grinding halt more than 30 years ago as well. Meanwhile, black women’s employment segregation from white women has actually grown somewhat, as white women made continued gains into traditionally white male jobs…

Where has there been progress? In general, African Americans tend to do better in workplaces that use formal credentials to make hiring decisions. Minorities and white women have made the most progress in professional jobs. These occupations require specific educational credentials to be considered for employment. African Americans also progress in those relatively rare large, private-sector firms that monitor their managers diversity track record.

It sounds like jobs based on social networks tend to be more segregated while jobs based on credentials allow more opportunities for non-whites. This reminds me of the sociological study Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue-Collar Jobs. Royster found in studying vocational schools that although black and white students were getting similar educations, the instructors and school gave white students more access to the primarily white social networks in the vocational trades while black students were left more to fend for themselves.

 

I would be curious to know how job segregation lines up with residential segregation, one of the more persistent features of American life in the last century. In other words, are workplaces in more diverse areas less segregated?

Since having a good job is tied to income, building wealth, accessing social networks and social capital, and new opportunities, this is important information. Also, this is a reminder fighting segregation is not a linear process.

 

Three kinds of segregation in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty

Sociologist Lincoln Quillian discusses three kinds of segregation that are present in minority neighborhoods of concentrated poverty:

Lincoln Quillian, professor of sociology and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, analyzed data from the 2000 census and found that the disproportionate poverty of blacks’ and Hispanics’ other-race neighbors plays an important role in creating racial disparities in neighborhood poverty. The other-race neighbors of black and Hispanic families are disproportionately likely to be poor regardless for black and Hispanic families of all income levels.

Concentrated poverty in minority communities results from three segregations: racial segregation, poverty-status segregation within race and segregation from high- and middle-income members of other racial groups, according to the study. Past work has emphasized racial segregation and poverty-status segregation within race, but has missed the important role played by the disproportionately low-income levels of other-race neighbors of blacks and Hispanics…

“Nationally there is evidence that as racial segregation has been slowly going down that income segregation has been going up,” Quillian said. “Blacks and Hispanics often are co-residing with poorer members of their racial groups.”

White middle-class families overwhelmingly live in middle-class neighborhoods and send their children to middle-class schools. But many black and Hispanic middle-class families live in working-class or poor neighborhoods and send their children to high-poverty schools.

This seems like more evidence for the value of having mixed-income neighborhoods. This idea was behind the two-decade HOPE VI housing program from the Department of Housing and Urban Department which demolished public housing high-rises and moved some of the residents to new mixed-income neighborhoods with people of other races and income groups on the site of the former projects. Whether this program works in the long run is still up for grabs and also highlights how it is difficult to create such neighborhoods solely through the private sector.

The problems with white stereotypes in movies like The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird

Here is an interesting take on how the presentation of white people in The Help (and To Kill a Mockingbird) obscures the existence of racial systems in the Jim Crow South:

This movie deploys the standard formula. With one possible exception, the white women are remarkably unlikable, and not just because of their racism. Like the housewives portrayed in reality television shows, the housewives of Jackson treat each other, their parents and their husbands with total callousness. In short, they are bad people, therefore they are racists…

To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not.

Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud. It’s the fallacy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a movie that never fails to move me but that advances a troubling falsehood: the notion that well-educated Christian whites were somehow victimized by white trash and forced to live within a social system that exploited and denigrated its black citizens, and that the privileged white upper class was somehow held hostage to these struggling individuals.

But that wasn’t the case. The White Citizens Councils, the thinking man’s Ku Klux Klan, were made up of white middle-class people, people whose company you would enjoy. An analogue can be seen in the way popular culture treats Germans up to and during World War II. Good people were never anti-Semites; only detestable people participated in Hitler’s cause.

Turner is arguing that the Jim Crow South was a system supported by much of Southern society of all social classes. In contrast, movies can portray racism as being the opinion of particular individuals or of people of smaller social groups. This “whitewash” perhaps helps us feel better today – only bad people were racists – and also reflects our own moral calculus where racists can’t be good people.

But we know from American history that this was not exactly the case. Many “virtuous” and celebrated Southerners supposed slavery and Jim Crow laws. And the North is also complicit: “sundown towns” were the norm and segregation were quite high (and still are). Overall, racism and discrimination still takes place within systems that require beginnings and maintenance provided by people living within the systems and also those in charge.

More on MLK in Chicago in 1966

After reading about Mayor Richard J. Daley in American Pharaoh, I learned more about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time in Chicago in 1966. His time in the city was short but very interesting. Here are the things that stuck out to me:

1. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had quite a debate about whether they should bring the Civil Rights Movement to Chicago or not. Several issues were at play: they had won legal battles in the South eliminating legal segregation but it was unclear whether they could win against informal (yet very established) segregation in the North. Also, Daley’s reputation was well-known. King decided to come to Chicago anyway over the arguments of others.

2. King based his movement out of the West Side of Chicago, living (though not all the time) in a tenement apartment in Lawndale. The West Side was a newer ghetto created when the population of the Black Belt became too large and other parts of the city were closed off to blacks. King set up there in part to avoid the black politicians who always supported Daley on the South Side. These politicians were willing to support Daley and the machine in return for being able to control their own wards. Thus, King was not fully supported by the black community when he operated in Chicago.

3. Daley played both sides successfully in 1966 and throughout his career. While Daley became known for supporting police brutality against anti-war protestors at the 1968 Democratic Convention, he tried to co-opt many of King’s efforts. Even though he came from an ethnic white neighborhood, he never fully came out and said blacks couldn’t move into such neighborhoods. At the same time, the city’s policies were aimed at avoiding this (particularly decisions about public housing). Daley controlled enough of the black vote on the South Side that he never had to support Civil Rights. Interestingly, his son gave a similar response to a question about segregation in Chicago earlier this year: he started talking about how Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and immigrants and they all move around and seek a better life.

4. King and his followers tried to reach out to Chicago’s gangs, not really a concern for the movement in the South, but this proved difficult. By this point, more gang members and others thought violence was a better response.

5. Daley met with King several times with a number of other interested parties present. These meetings didn’t go anywhere fast.

6. At a march in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966, King was struck by a rock in the head and knocked down. Others yelled, “Kill him, kill him” while “another heckler threw a knife at King.” After escaping the scene, King said, “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I’ve seen in Chicago…I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate.” This is one of those stories (and there are many others) that should disabuse people of the notion that the North had racial harmony).

7. Jesse Jackson was involved in this process as he had been attending seminary.

8. The final summit between the city and the Chicago Freedom Movement began August 17, 1966. After the first day, both Daley and King were unhappy about the outcome. After Daley asked for and got a moratorium from a judge on marches in Chicago neighborhoods, the Freedom Movement marched outside the city and threatened to march on Cicero on August 28. After more negotiations, the final meeting was held on August 26 and both Daley and King claimed a victory with the final agreement.

9. Ultimately, King and the Chicago Freedom Movement saw little change in the actions of Daley and the city. From my own view, it appears like Daley was able to outlast King: he said just enough without really promising big changes. King, perhaps caught off guard by the differences between Chicago and the South, could only force Daley to negotiate (and marching in Cicero was the big lever King had – one can only imagine if a major march had occurred) but not to capitulate.

Fascinating reading.

Read my earlier post about this from MLK Day 2011 here.