With racial segregation declining between neighborhoods, segregation now taking new form

Recent research has shown that racial segregation in the U.S. is declining between neighborhoods, but a new study indicates that segregation is manifesting itself in other ways — not disappearing.

“We just can’t get too excited by recent declines in neighborhood segregation,” said lead author Daniel Lichter, the Ferris Family Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and a professor in the Department of Sociology at Cornell University. “The truth is neighborhood segregation still remains high in America, and our study also shows that segregation is increasingly occurring at different scales of geography.”

While segregation from neighborhood to neighborhood is decreasing (micro-segregation) within metropolitan areas, segregation from suburban communities (e.g., towns, villages, and cities) to other suburban communities within the same metropolitan areas and from major metropolitan cities to their suburban communities is increasing (macro-segregation). In other words, instead of people of different races living in distinct neighborhoods in the same major metropolitan cities and suburban communities, these major cities and suburban communities are becoming increasingly racially homogenous.

“Let’s look at the community of Ferguson, Missouri, for example,” said Lichter, who is also the director of the Cornell Population Center. “Whites have left Ferguson, mostly for white suburban communities even farther from the urban core that is St. Louis. The racial composition of Ferguson went from about 25 percent black to 67 percent black in a 20 year period. Though one would be correct in saying that segregation decreased between neighborhoods in Ferguson, the change simply reflects massive white depopulation.”

Titled, “Toward a New Macro-Segregation? Decomposing Segregation within and between Metropolitan Cities and Suburbs,” the study appears in the August issue of the American Sociological Review. Lichter and his co-authors, Domenico Parisi, a professor of sociology and director of the National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) at Mississippi State University, and Michael C. Taquino, an associate research professor and the deputy director of nSPARC, analyzed U.S. Census data from 1990-2010 and examined micro, macro, and total racial segregation across 222 metropolitan areas.

“One of our major findings is that suburban communities are becoming more segregated from each other,” Lichter said. “Cities and communities — not just neighborhoods — matter. Over the past decade or so, some suburban communities have become more racially diverse, even as whites have moved out to other growing suburbs farther from the city or have moved back to the city as part of the gentrification process. In the late 1970s, there was a famous study titled, ‘Chocolate City, Vanilla Suburbs,’ which highlighted that blacks generally lived in large cities while whites lived in suburban communities. Our study shows that minority population growth in the suburbs has fundamentally shifted historic patterns of residential segregation in this country.”

Consistent with previous studies, Lichter found that the highest level of macro-segregation is between blacks and whites, the lowest is between Asians and whites, and the level between Hispanics and whites occupies an intermediate position.

“If segregation is our measure, we have a long way to go before we are truly a post-racial society,” said Lichter, who noted that suburban communities use housing, taxation, and zoning laws to include or exclude racial and ethnic minorities.


2 thoughts on “With racial segregation declining between neighborhoods, segregation now taking new form”

  1. What I really don’t get is that when I see black people move into a neighbhorhood. Usually the people that move in are nice. Have nice kids. I have no problem being their neighbor. But there is a weird dynamic where after the first generation moves in and has been there for a while, their kids grow up. And once they do, they either go to college or go move for a job. So when it comes time for the next round of sales, a different class of buy shows up. And I’m sorry, but they are destructive. Now you can say what you want about racism, but I think I cam observe a situation objectively without bringing race into it. There are plenty of bad apples in every culture. But watching a neighborhood go from white to black in your life time is like watching continents break and drift apart. Its destructive on a spectacular level. You can’t believe what you are seeing. You can’t help BUT be uncomfortable with it. Aside from the passing of family members, I have seen my Grandfather cry only once in his life. When he went back to Strawberry Mansion and saw what that neighborhood has become. I live in Northeast Philly. And I can already see my area is headed in the same direction. One day, in the not too far future, I will be part of repeating history and it will be my tears that have signified the death of what I grew up in and use to think of as “A nice neighborhood”. And I’ll refine it down even further for you. As someone who grew up in a Jewish family. There use to be Kosher butchers all over the place. There is one left in all of Northeast Philly.

  2. Why do whites flee neighborhoods, or even whole cities? Because once the population of blacks reaches a certain tipping point, neighborhoods become crime ridden. When blacks first began to move into my neighborhood I applauded the development, because, in theory, I think a society is healthier when all segments of it are represented. Well, I’m not applauding anymore—-we have home invasions, muggings, break ins, loud gatherings of youth who intimidate older people, and the decline of property maintenance and value. And it only gets worse the more black people move in. Now, let me say, if these were middle class black people, there would be no problem, but it is the culture of poverty that comes along with the people moving in. Now my quiet, safe neighborhood, of small, blue collar, well kept homes and yards is turning into a crime ridden slum. Guess what? I can’t wait to get out. And I know, white privilege makes it possible for me to get out. But it was my community which I’ve lived in for over thirty years which has been ruined. What’s the answer? Perhaps the eradication of as much poverty as possible, along with somehow teaching people to live as responsible members of society. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

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