Four Decades of Segregation and Poverty

Our analysis draws on census tract data obtained from the decennial censuses of 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 as well as data from the 2008–2012 American Community Surveys for 287 consistently defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs; borrowing liberally from a dataset developed by Rugh and Massey 2014). Figure 2.1 shows trends in the degree of Black–White segregation from 1970 to 2010. The values are weighted averages of segregation indices computed for all MSAs, where weights are the proportion of all metropolitan Blacks living in each MSA. The trends thus represent changes in the degree of segregation experienced by the average Black metropolitan resident over time.

We measure segregation using the well-known index of dissimilarity, which gives the relative share of two groups that would have to exchange neighborhoods to achieve an even residential distribution (Massey and Denton 1988). We proxy neighborhoods using census tracts, which are small local areas averaging around 4,000 persons defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. In an even residential distribution each tract would replicate the racial composition of the metropolitan area as a whole. For example, if an MSA were 10 % Black and 90 % White, then evenness would be achieved when each tract was 10 % Black and 90 % White, yielding an

Fig. 2.1 Black-White residential dissimilarity and Black and White poverty rates in metropolitan areas

index value of zero. In general, tract-based dissimilarity indices of 60 or greater are considered to be high, those between 30 and 60 moderate, and those under 30 low.

According to these criteria, average levels of Black-White segregation have remained in the high range throughout the past four decades. Nonetheless, levels of racial segregation have displayed a slow but steady decline over time, with the dissimilarity index going from 78 in 1970 to around 60 in 2010, a decline of about five points per decade. Although the trend in Black-White segregation may have been downward on average, Rugh and Massey (2014) found considerable variation across MSAs in the rate of decline. Their statistical analysis revealed that lower levels of Black segregation and more rapid shifts toward integration were predicted by small metropolitan population size, high Black socioeconomic status, low levels of antiBlack prejudice, permissive density zoning in suburbs, the presence of a college or university, larger concentrations of military personnel, and a small Black percentage. In general, therefore, metropolitan areas experiencing a decline in segregation over the past 40 years have been those of small size with a relatively small Black population of high socioeconomic status, with suburban zoning regimes that allow multi-unit housing, and a military base and/or colleges or universities in the metropolitan region. Obviously this profile does not fit the metropolitan areas where most African-Americans live.

Figure 2.1 also shows trends in Black and White poverty from 1970 to 2010. We define poverty as coming from a household within an income of $30,000 or less (the cutoff for receipt of a federal Pell college grant for low-income students). As can be seen, there is little evidence of any downward trend in the level of Black poverty over time. Indeed, the poverty rate rose from 34 to 40 % between 1970 and 1990; and although it fell to a rate of 35 during the economic boom of the 1990s by 2010, it had risen back to up 36 %, two points above where it stood in 1970. The rate of White poverty likewise rose between 1970 and 1990, going from 16 to 24 % before dropping back to 21 % in 2000 and then rising back up to 23 % in 2010. For both racial groups, we expect trends in the concentration of poverty generally to follow trends in the rate of poverty (Jargowsky 1997). Thus it should rise during the 1970s and 1980s, fall in the 1990s, and then rise again during the 2000s, though absolute levels of poverty concentration naturally will be much lower for Whites than Blacks.

As already noted, declines in Black-White segregation were quite uneven across regions, with high levels generally persisting in sizable poor Black communities located in the nation's large metropolitan areas. In their analysis of 1980 census data, Massey and Denton (1989) went further to identify a subset of areas in which African-Americans were segregated along multiple geographic dimensions simultaneously, a pattern of intense isolation they labeled hypersegregation. In hypersegregated metropolitan areas, African Americans are highly segregated (index value above 60) on at least four of segregation's five underlying geographic dimensions. Thus African-Americans were not only unevenly distributed across neighborhoods but also experienced high levels of isolation, living in nearly allBlack neighborhoods that were clustered tightly together to form a densely packed community located in and around the city center. In 1980, such areas housed a disproportionate share of all African-Americans. Although a recent analysis by Massey and Tannen (2015) revealed that the number of hypersegregated areas dropped sharply between 1970 and 2010, 34 % of all metropolitan Black residents still lived under conditions of hypersegregation 40 years later, with another 21 % living under conditions of “high” segregation (dissimilarity index above 60).

The top of Fig. 2.2 shows trends in Black-White segregation for the five most racially segregated metropolitan areas as of 2010. These data underscore how limited progress toward racial integration has been in the nation's largest urban Black communities. In MSAs such as Milwaukee, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland—places with well-known and long-established Black ghettos—progress toward residential integration has been limited, with dissimilarity indices ranging narrowly between 73 and 80 even in the age of Obama. Among all hypersegregated areas, the average Black-White dissimilarity index fell from 79 in 1970 to 66 in 2010, and their ranks included St. Louis, where Blacks and Whites at present are bitterly divided over the killing of an unarmed Black teenager by a White police officer in the predominantly Black suburb of Ferguson.

Figure 2.2 also shows trends in Black-White dissimilarity among the five least segregated metropolitan areas in 2010. As can be seen, in smaller metropolitan areas with tiny Black populations levels of segregation, the dissimilarity index fell quite rapidly over the past four decades. In Provo, Utah, for example, the index fell from 83 in 1970 to just 18 in 2010. Of course, the Black population of Provo numbered just 4,012 in 2010 and was relatively affluent, not to mention Provo is a college town (home to Brigham Young University). The average dissimilarity index for all five areas went from 66 in 1970 to 19 in 2010, but the average size of the Black

Fig. 2.2 Segregation trends in the most and least segregated metropolitan areas

population was 2,600 and all five areas contained colleges or universities, again not a profile that applies to most Black metropolitan residents.

The link between the degree of Black segregation and the relative size of the Black population reflects changes in White racial attitudes since the civil rights era. In the 1960s, large majorities of White Americans supported racial segregation in principle, agreeing that Whites had a right to keep Blacks out of their neighborhoods and that African-Americans should respect that right. By the 1990s, however, the percentage of Whites expressing this viewpoint had fallen to single digits, and most had adopted a color-blind ideology of equal opportunity for all regardless of race (Schuman et al. 1998).

Despite the collapse of White support for segregation in principle, however, negative racial stereotypes remain firmly rooted in White social cognition and White respondents show little tolerance for associating with very many African-Americans in practice, especially in intimate settings such as neighborhoods and schools. On surveys, as the hypothetical number of Black students or neighbors increases, larger and larger shares of White respondents express discomfort, declaring a reluctance to enter a neighborhood and expressing a desire to leave (Charles 2003, 2006). Even after controlling for a neighborhood's property values, crime rates, and school quality, the likelihood that a White subject would be willing to purchase a home in a neighborhood declines sharply as the percentage of Blacks rises (Emerson et al. 2001).

Under these circumstances, in metropolitan areas with small Black populations, Whites can simultaneously honor their ideological commitment to equal opportunity and satisfy their desire not to share schools or neighborhoods with many Black people. In Provo, for example, the Black percentage is just 0.7 %, so under conditions of complete integration (a Black-White dissimilarity index of zero) each neighborhood would be just 0.7 % Black, which is well within White tolerance limits. In contrast, Milwaukee County is 27 % Black, so complete integration there would yield neighborhoods that were 27 % Black, which is well beyond the comfort level of most Whites—hence the current pattern of high, stubborn levels of segregation in metropolitan areas containing large Black communities but rapid shifts toward integration in areas where few African-Americans actually live.

Nonetheless, patterns of racial segregation did change after the civil rights era. Whereas virtually all metropolitan areas were highly segregated by race in 1970, 40 years later, segregation levels vary widely across metropolitan areas. Indeed, from 1970 to 2010 the standard deviation of Black-White dissimilarities rose from 10.2 to 11.2. At the same time, the standard deviation of Black poverty rates fell from

10.1 to 8.2. With stable means and declining variability in rates of Black poverty but declining means and rising variability with respect to Black segregation, the geographic concentration of Black poverty over time has increasingly come to be determined by inter-metropolitan variation in the degree of Black residential segregation.

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