Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023
The segregation of the US housing market continues, even as poverty decreases

Racial inequality in the US is maintained in part by continued segregation in neighborhoods. Historically, people of color are more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods with limited access to education, health care, and professional opportunities. A recent study published in PNAS shows that over the past 30 years there has been a decrease in racially based neighborhood segregation, but there has been an even greater decrease in racially based poverty.

The authors of this study used census data from 1980 to 2010 to compare the decline in neighborhood poverty rates between black neighborhoods and other neighborhoods. They defined “neighborhood poverty rate” as the percentage of people in a neighborhood living below the poverty line.

In their comparisons, the authors found that the difference in poverty rates between black and non-black neighborhoods decreased by 40 percent over the 20-year study period. In other words, individual neighborhoods are less likely to show large income differences. While black Americans are still more likely to live in neighborhoods with high poverty rates, the poverty gap between black neighborhoods and neighborhoods with predominantly non-black residents has narrowed. (The difference in neighborhood poverty rates between Black and Hispanic or Asian neighborhoods has also narrowed, but not as much.)

Over the same 20-year period, the authors saw some black residents moving out of segregated impoverished neighborhoods and into affluent neighborhoods, and in fact they were the only major racial group to move out of poor neighborhoods between 1980 and 2010.

When comparing neighborhood poverty and neighborhood segregation, poverty rates between black and white neighborhoods have leveled out, but these neighborhoods still remain highly segregated by ethnicity. This discrepancy is due to the fact that the change in the ethnic composition of the non-black population in the US has influenced financial inequality more than racial segregation.

This study challenges three widely held beliefs about racial stratification in American neighborhoods. It seems to show that the end of black segregation is not near — although black Americans have more economic power, their neighborhoods are still highly segregated. It also indicates that black Americans have become less segregated, largely because Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans have become a buffer between them and whites. Finally, the reduction in black segregation is not the most significant change in the racial stratification of neighborhoods between 1980 and 2010, but the most significant change has been the steady narrowing of poverty disparities.

These findings regarding the discrepancy between differences in neighborhood poverty rates and segregation status in neighborhoods point to a serious concern regarding wealth equality, as inequality persists in part due to differences in home ownership. Since housing is a precious asset, there can be challenges to intergenerational housing transfers, particularly for black residents, who are more likely to rent. This means that it may be more difficult for future generations of Black Americans to escape poverty-stricken neighborhoods for neighborhoods with more economic security.

PNAS2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1607220113 (About DOIs).

By akfire1

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