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Racial Segregation is Still an Issue in Most Metro Areas

— June 24, 2021

University study finds racial segregation is still widespread across the U.S.

A new study by the University of California Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute has found that some of the U.S.’s largest metropolitan regions have experienced more racial segregation in the last three decades.  This is “underscoring racial inequalities that have led to poorer life outcomes in Black and brown neighborhoods,” according to the study.

Researchers found that “81% of regions with more than 200,000 residents were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990.”  This was true despite fair housing laws and ongoing efforts to racial integration.  The top segregated areas included “Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, New York, northern New Jersey and Philadelphia in the mid-Atlantic.”  Savannah, Georgia, San Antonio, Texas, and Miami, Florida, had the most significant drops in segregation over the same time period.

According to the study, “segregated communities of color have lower incomes, higher unemployment, lower home values and are less educated than segregated White communities.”  However, the report indicates, “Blacks and Hispanics who grew up in segregated White communities were able to earn significantly higher incomes than those in communities in color.”

Racial Segregation is Still an Issue in Most Metro Areas
Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

“The takeaway from these findings is that race itself appears not to be the determining factor in an individual’s life outcomes,” the Othering & Belonging Institute stated. “Rather, the more consequential factor for life outcomes is the environment in which that individual is immersed.”

Stephen Menendian, the organization’s assistant director and the project’s lead author, called the study’s findings “both startling and disturbing.”  According to Menendian, “the study proves that residential segregation is the root cause of many of the disparities that many protesters and activists have been fighting against.”  He added, “What this study is illuminating is that racial residential segregation is the mechanism that sorts people into environments that are healthy, that are well resourced, and have access to strong amenities and public goods and those that have underinvested, disinvested (neighborhoods).”

The study pointed out the problematic societal consequences that have drawn substantial attention in recent years.  It notes, “Lack of access to health care and police brutality also disproportionately impact segregated communities of color.”  These issues have become more and more prevalent despite increased awareness around both.

Menendian said one explanation for increased segregation is that “while Asians and Hispanics remain the fastest-growing minority groups in the country, they are becoming more segregated from White communities.  This is driving up the nation’s aggregated level of segregation.”  More research needs to be done around why these populations are not integrating, which was not included in this study, nor were potential solutions for further promoting integration.

Menendian added, “The argument that people choose to live in communities that are comprised mostly of residents who look like them, and century-old policies and practices such as redlining, have had lasting effects on large metropolitan areas.  We are in a dire spot with respect to race in the United States.  We have a greater awareness that there is clearly a problem of structural racial inequality, but there’s a lack of awareness of the nature of the problem.”


Most major metropolitan areas have become more racially segregated, study shows

The Roots of Structural Racism

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