The voice of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
April 17, 2013

A MetroTrends Map: How Racial Segregation Changed from 1970 to 2010

April 17, 2013

Recently, Sophie Litschwartz found that many of our larger metro areas with large black populations are only slightly more integrated than they were a few decades ago. Meanwhile, smaller metros with small black populations have been integrating at a much more rapid pace. Why this is occurring remains a mystery.

To evaluate metro segregation levels, Sophie calculated a commonly used measure called a dissimilarity index, which rates neighborhoods from 0 (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation). To better illustrate what these scores mean, I’ve put together an interactive map that covers the 268 metros in our study (and rural areas as well).

View the full-screen map here


The map shows how black-white segregation levels have changed over time. What do New York’s stagnating scores of 75.0 in 1970 and 76.4 in 2010 look like? What does progress in a more integrated Washington, D.C., (80.3 in 1970 to 60.1 in 2010) look like? To find out, explore the map above.

This analysis is based on the neighborhood change database (NCDB). Note that the database does not contain data for all census tracts in 1970 because it does not provide data for “untracted” areas.

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Scholars are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.



Are you holding the definitions of the metro areas constant? Take a look at Baton Rouge; the dissimilarity falls, but it also looks like the boundaries of the city are much larger in 2010 than in 1970. If this is the "untracted" issue, it seems like a 1980 to 2010 comparison would be more useful.