Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Many areas that now seem integrated may not be that way for long, according to a new study.
Neighborhood integration is a great goal, but just because a place is currently home to more than one race doesn’t mean it will retain this diversity in the decades to come. A new study published in Sociological Science explores this potential future for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston. It finds that 35 percent of all neighborhoods in these cities—around 3,800 total—are likely to resegregate in the next two decades.
“Neighborhoods in many major metropolitan areas of the U.S. appear integrated, simply because different races are present,” Bader, who is an assistant professor of sociology at American University, said via press release. “But these neighborhoods are not the portrait of long-term, racially integrated neighborhoods.”
Bader and his colleagues tracked how populations of whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians changed between 1970 and 2010 in the four cities analyzed. By their definition, a neighborhood was considered diverse if a second racial group made up at least 10 percent of the population. They explain how their technique (known as a “growth mixture model”) differs from previous ones, via the study website:
This allows us to group neighborhoods by the timing and pace of change. Other studies typically only look at the the presence of groups, which they define as some percentage of the population. We can distinguish a neighborhood where, for example, the Latino population increases from 10% to 60% from one that increases from 10% to 15%. Other studies can't tell the difference between those two changes.
Using this technique, Bader color-coded neighborhoods in these four cities based on the following 11 categories, each of which represents a different pattern of racial change since 1970:
“Stable black” (dark green): These neighborhoods had a large black majority in the time right after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and that population has remained roughly stable in the decades since (apart from a small growth in Latino residents).
“White flight” (bright green): These neighborhoods saw a brief period in which black and white residents lived here, followed by an exodus of all its white residents. They now have pretty high shares of black residents.
“Steady black succession” (pale green): Shares of Black residents rose here after 1980—and kept rising. These neighborhoods now look similar to the ones that experienced white flight.
“Latino enclaves” (navy blue): These neighborhoods already contained large Latino populations in the 1970s, which only increased in the decades after. Today, these are generally majority-Latino neighborhoods.
“Early Latino growth, white decline” (royal blue): These were white neighborhoods that saw an influx of Latinos in the 1980s; in the decades after, these Latino populations grew.
“Early Latino growth, black decline” (teal) : These were originally black neighborhoods that saw a growth in Latino residents in the decades after 1980.
“Recent Latino growth” (sky blue): Shares of Latino residents in these neighborhoods increased in the 1990s, then again in the 2000s (although at a slower pace).
“Asian growth” (pink): These locales saw a growth in their Asian population in the 1990s and the 2000s.
“Quadrivial neighborhoods” (fuchsia): These are neighborhoods that are “stably integrated,” according to Bader, meaning that they’ve seen their black, Latino, and Asian populations increase slowly; they’re likely to remain diverse in the next two decades.
“Latino growth, then decline” (orange): These resembled Latino enclaves in 1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s, the share of whites in these neighborhoods increased, and the share of Latinos decreased.
“Stable white” (white): These neighborhoods contained predominantly white residents in the 40 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, and have started to diversify in recent years.
Here are screenshots of the interactive maps Bader created based on the above categories:
Bader’s analysis predicts that, in the next two decades, many of the neighborhoods in the pale green (“steady black succession”), navy blue (“Latino enclaves”), royal blue (“early Latino growth, white decline”), teal (“early Latino growth, black decline”), sky blue (“recent Latino growth”), and pink (Asian growth) categories are the ones where a single racial group will become dominant over time. Here’s Bader on that process, again via the study website:
We were disappointed to learn that many integrated neighborhoods were actually experiencing slow, but steady resegregation — a process that we call "gradual succession." The process tended to concentrate Blacks into small areas of cities and inner-ring suburbs while scattering many Latinos and Asians into segregating neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area.
Meanwhile, the fuchsia “quadrivial” neighborhoods, located in the suburbs like Aliso Viejo, California, and Naperville, Illinois, are likely to retain their diversity for some time. (Of course, as my colleague Amanda Kolson Hurley has noted, in general, diverse suburbs aren’t immune to the threat of resegregation.) Despite fair housing and civil rights legislations, housing discrimination is an ongoing problem with multigenerational effects—and one of the possible reasons behind the trends Bader has highlighted in the study. Another is the tendency of white Americans to self-segregate.
“Blacks and Latinos are open to moving to different neighborhoods. Whites are largely unwilling,” Bader said, in the press release. “Whites are OK if integration comes to them, but they don’t actively seek it out.”