This memo focuses on the racial component of residential segregation—primarily drawing on data on black-white segregation.
Where people live matters for their long-term social and economic success. A typical white person lives in a neighborhood that is 75 percent white and 8 percent African American, while a typical African American person lives in a neighborhood that is only 35 percent white and 45 percent African American. What’s more, we continue to see people of color overrepresented in high-poverty census tracts. In the United States, a low-income African American person is more than three times more likely to live in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 40 percent or more than a white person is, and a low-income Latino person is more than twice as likely to live in such a neighborhood. These statistics show that racial residential segregation and racialized concentrated poverty persist today.
Racially segregated neighborhoods did not come about naturally. They are the physical manifestation of plans, policies, and practices that have systematically denied equal opportunity to minority populations. The policies and practices of racial exclusion described in this paper were primarily directed at African Americans but laid the foundation for patterns of segregation among other racial and ethnic groups. Recent research suggest that we are seeing declining segregation across racial and ethnic groups, although African Americans remain more highly segregated than any other racial or ethnic group in the US. This synthesis will outline various factors that have contributed to, and continue to reinforce, this pattern of racial segregation in US metropolitan areas.