It’s been 45 years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, which was a perfect time for the Urban Institute to see how much progress we’d made on housing integration. Researchers used census data from 1970 to 2010 for 268 metro areas to get results.
Using these data, we calculated a widely used measure of segregation, called a dissimilarity index, which ranges from 0-if the mix of whites and blacks is the same in every neighborhood-to 100-if no whites have any blacks living in their neighborhoods, or vice versa.
The data analysis showed that white-black segregation has declined, but there are some surprising geographic distinctions. The larger the metro area, the more segregated it is:
…all three northeast metros (Boston, New York, and Philadelphia) remain highly segregated and experienced slower declines in segregation than the national average. New York actually became slightly more segregated over the last 40 years.
In the last 20 years, there’s been a big change, and metros with smaller black populations have integrated much more quickly. The Institute’s Sophie Litschwartz acknowledges that such integration is positive, but beneath her careful words, she wants to say, “We can only be so excited about the fact that the four African Americans who live in Provo have homes next to white people.” She writes:
It is also troubling that metros with large populations, and large black populations, aren’t seeing that progress. New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia are all hardly more integrated then they were 40 years ago. What changed in metros with small black populations? Why aren’t large, diverse metro areas integrating faster?