A recent study has found that although housing discrimination is illegal and segregation has decreased in metropolitan areas, it remains in other ways, especially in suburban U.S. communities.
While segregation from neighborhood to neighborhood is decreasing within metropolitan areas, increasing numbers of suburbs have become majority-minority communities, as whites have moved to other suburbs or back to the city.
“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,” said Daniel Lichter, Cornell University professor and lead author, in a statement. “Our study shows that minority population growth in the suburbs has fundamentally shifted historic patterns of residential segregation in this country.”
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.
“We just can’t get too excited by recent declines in neighborhood segregation. 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.”
“Let’s look at the community of Ferguson, Missouri, for example,” said Lichter. “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% black to 67% 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.”
The study, Toward a New Macro-Segregation? Decomposing Segregation Within and Between Metropolitan Cities and Suburbs, appears in the August issue of American Sociological Review.