Human Rights Maps (121): Residential Segregation in the U.S.

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data / discrimination and hate / equality / human rights maps

Segregation comes in many forms: there can be segregation in schools, at work, in the places people live, in restaurants etc. In U.S. history, it has often been racial segregation, but there is also something like gender segregation, wealth segregation etc., and often these types overlap. Segregation can be the forced and legal separation of “different kinds of humans” into different groups and the illegality of interaction or contact. Jim Crow laws, laws regarding interracial marriage etc. have in the past enforced segregation. But even when it’s illegal it can be maintained by way of prejudice, discrimination, selective rental behavior or employment decisions, vigilante violence (e.g. lynching), intimidation, ghettoization etc. Below I focus on non-legally enforced residential segregation in present-day U.S.

Over the 20th century, the residential patterns of US households became increasingly divided by race. From 1940 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan white population who lived in the suburban ring increased from 38% to 74%, whereas, even by 2000, over 60% of the black metropolitan population remained in central cities. (source)

In the hundred largest metropolitan areas, where most whites and blacks live,

the exposure of the average white person to black people has risen by two percentage points, from 5.5 percent in 1980 to 7.6 percent today. 

The decline of isolation among African-Americans since 1980 has been overwhelmingly due to the growth of Latino populations in black neighborhoods. The presence of Latinos in black neighborhoods has doubled since 1980, from 8.2 to 16.4 percent. Similarly, the declining homogeneity of white neighborhoods does not reflect the long-sought residential integration of whites and blacks, but instead the influx of Latinos into white neighborhoods. In 1980 Latinos were 5.5 percent of residents in majority-white neighborhoods. Today they are 11.2 percent. (source)

These two maps show current residential segregation in New York and Chicago respectively:

residential segregation in New York

residential segregation in New York

(source/source/source/source, one dot equals 25 people and is color-coded based on race: White is pink; Black is blue; Hispanic is orange, and Asian is green)
residential segregation in Chicago

residential segregation in Chicago

(source/source/source/source, one dot equals 25 people and is color-coded based on race: White is pink; Black is blue; Hispanic is orange, and Asian is green)

Another approach to residential segregation is in the map below:

black white residential segregation in the US map

(source, read the source for the methodology)

Where people decide to live is obviously their free choice and I don’t think anybody seriously defends forced relocation as a solution to residential segregation. However, if residential segregation is the result, not of free choice but of racial poverty, conscious or unconscious discrimination by landlords or employers or any other type of racial bias, then it is a problem. However, rather than trying to solve this problem directly, one should look at the underlying causes of residential segregation and do something about those.

More on segregation. More on how segregation is measured. More maps on discrimination. More human rights maps.


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