The Most Diverse Cities Are Often the Most Segregated

Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight, May 1, 2015

When I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1996, I heard the same thing again and again: Do not leave the boundaries of Hyde Park. Do not go north of 47th Street. Do not go south of 61st Street. Do not go west of Cottage Grove Avenue.


On Dustin Cable’s interactive “Dot Map” of racial residency patterns, Hyde Park appears as an island of blue and red dots–meaning, mostly white and Asian students and residents–in contrast to Chicago’s almost uniformly black South Side, designated in green dots. Washington Park, the neighborhood just to Hyde Park’s west, is 97 percent black. Woodlawn–the neighborhood on the other side of 60th Street–is 87 percent black.

Chicago deserves its reputation as a segregated city. But it is also an extremely diverse city. And the difference between those terms–which are often misused and misunderstood–says a lot about how millions of American city dwellers live. It is all too common to live in a city with a wide variety of ethnic and racial groups–including Chicago, New York, and Baltimore–and yet remain isolated from those groups in a racially homogenous neighborhood.


So let’s aim to develop a slightly richer vocabulary. I’m going to describe three statistical measures of segregation and diversity. {snip}


In order to provoke a few questions, I’m going to list the top 10 and bottom 10 U.S. cities by each of the these measures (out of the 100 most populous cities). Chicago, for example, ranks near the top of the charts by one metric, but is at the very bottom on another.

The first measure is the citywide diversity index. It’s defined as the answer to this question: For an average resident in the city, what percent of the people belong to a different racial group?

The lowest possible citywide diversity index is 0 percent, which is what you get if everyone is the same race. The highest possible one is 80 percent. Why not 100 percent? Because the Brown data only includes five racial groups. Even if the population is divided exactly evenly between these groups, you’ll still have 20 percent of the people belong to the same race as you.

{snip} Oakland, California, is not far from being evenly divided between whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians; its citywide diversity index is 75 percent. New York’s is 73 percent. And Chicago’s is 70 percent.

At the low end of the scale are extremely white cities like Lincoln and Scottsdale, Arizona. There’s also extremely black cities like Detroit, and extremely Hispanic cities like Laredo, Texas. Laredo, which is almost entirely Hispanic, has a citywide diversity index of just 8 percent.


The counterpart to the citywide diversity index is the neighborhood diversity index. It answers basically the same question we asked above, but applied at the neighborhood level. That is: For an average resident in the city, what percent of the people in her neighborhood belong to a different racial group? {snip}

The neighborhood diversity index is always equal to or lower than the citywide diversity index. In other words, if a city doesn’t have much diversity overall, it can’t have racially diverse neighborhoods.

But the reverse can be true, and often is: You can have a diverse city, but not diverse neighborhoods. Whereas Chicago’s citywide diversity index is 70 percent, seventh best out of the 100 most populous U.S. cities, its neighborhood diversity index is just 36 percent, which ranks 82nd. New York also has a big gap. Its citywide diversity index is 73 percent, fourth highest in the country, but its neighborhood diversity index is 47 percent, which ranks 49th.

To be clear, New York and Chicago are still more diverse than cities like Lincoln, even at the neighborhood level. But as the numbers show, they are segregated because they underachieve their potential to have racially diverse neighborhoods.

This is what the final metric, the integration-segregation index, gets at. It’s defined by the relationship between citywide and neighborhood diversity scores. If we graph the 100 most populous cities on a scatterplot, they look like this:


This chart is key to understanding our approach, so let’s take a quick tour, starting in the top-right corner of the chart and moving counterclockwise.

  • The top-right quadrant contains cities like Sacramento, California, that have high neighborhood and citywide diversity scores. They’re both diverse and integrated.
  • The top-left quadrant is empty. In theory, you’d place cities here if they had high neighborhood diversity but poor citywide diversity. But as we’ve said, you can’t have diverse neighborhoods if there’s no diversity in the overall population.
  • In the bottom-left quadrant are cities like Laredo and Lincoln that score poorly on both neighborhood and citywide diversity. Because they’re so racially uniform, you can’t really define them as being either segregated or integrated.
  • The bottom-right quadrant contains highly segregated cities like Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis. They have average-to-good citywide diversity, but poor neighborhood diversity.
  • The largest group of cities, including those like Los Angeles, are clustered just above these in the middle-right portion of the chart. They’re near the red regression line that indicates the typical relationship between citywide diversity and neighborhood diversity. These cities are reasonably diverse, but a very long way from being perfectly integrated. However, they’re not quite as segregated as cities like Chicago.

The integration-segregation index is determined by how far above or below a city is from the regression line. Cities below the line are especially segregated.



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  • Mack0

    One consistent factor is the black population. As we all will assume, the less black the better. Steve Sailer wrote a great analysis of the findings on Unz.

    • Including noting that Barack “I Hate White Cops” Obama was doubly protected by the Chicago PD and the University of Chicago PD in both of his Chicago residences, both his condo and Rezko Acres, both houses were in areas that both departments cover. Now he also has Secret Service, and will for at least 10 years after he leaves the White House.

      • Mack0

        He knows the truth just like Jesse Jackson does. He wasn’t worried about whites in Chicago. Just like when Jesse walks the streets, Obama was relieved to turn around and see a white face instead of a black one

  • dd121

    Come on, they’re not just now noticing that?

    • TruthBeTold

      They had to do a study.

      They need studies to explain realty and common sense.

      • dd121

        Unfortunately, they usually miss the mark.

    • BlueSonicStreak

      They couldn’t make arguments about “encounter rates” for black-on-white crime if they acknowledged that blacks have to go out of their way to “encounter” whites in the first place – something that would become obvious the moment you pointed out that whites and blacks don’t live together.

  • The present and future of politics in a lot of big “diverse” cities is the black undertow versus everyone else.

  • TruthBeTold

    I used to live in Manhattan. Other than some blacks I worked with, I have little contact with blacks or Hispanics. Never had one I’d call a friend.

    • I know. Same here. I only interact with blacks when I have no choice in the matter. And I keep it to a minimum.

    • Illidan Stormragge

      Live in NYC now. Can’t wait to get out!

  • “And we did a study that found that White people prefer to live around others just like them, no matter what they say to pollsters.” Duh!

  • IstvanIN

    Nate Silver………..hmmmmm

    • Okay, I’ll confess. I swear by FiveThirtyEight, sometimes to my own detriment.

  • listenupbub

    Of course, Chicago is about as nice as it gets for a mega-city.

    • Barabbas

      Apparently you’ve never lived in Seattle. Absolutely the best and safest city I’ve ever lived in. And I lived in a Chicago suburb for four years during grad school and spent a lot of time in Chicago. It’s actually a decent city – in certain areas. I spent 24 years living in Seattle. I’m white, by the way.

      • John Smith

        The PNW is rather short on negroes, though those that are there still manage to make themselves felt in the crime stats.

      • listenupbub

        I have never lived there, but a sibling of mine does. I’d say it is up there with Chicago; this does not contradict my original statement, if you read closely.

        I suppose cities in Canada are better, though: Victoria and Vancouver. Maybe Montreal, but I have never been there.

        • Cuddles

          Toronto and Montreal are loaded with blacks. Toronto is following the exact same pattern as those godforsaken US cities almost to the tee.

          • pennawhytmn

            One thing I am rather ignorant is life in Canda and their social issues. Do the dark people up their ascribe to the “perpetual victim theory” as they do here? And does the Canadian government and elite do everything to appease Blacks like we do in the U.S? I am sure their crime rates would closely resemble those of America, as genetic makeup is genetic makeup. I wonder if the disparity is just as striking?

          • BlueSonicStreak

            Blacks aren’t as much of a problem in many places up here, as we don’t have too many of them; although I cannot speak for the aforementioned areas if they are now black-heavy.

            Around my area, blacks are either immigrants or refugees, and either way they seem to try to MOSTLY keep their heads down. I avoid them where possible.

            My city has a ghetto in which various refugees live, including Africans. It’s nowhere near as bad as the American ghettos we hear about (that is, if you’re white, you can still probably walk through this section of town safely), but there are a few crazy stories that come out of there – the area has a lot of drugs. I have a white friend who grew up in the area, and he was a heavy coke user by the time he left high school (although he’s clean now). A family friend also used to teach elementary school in that area, and had guns and knives pulled on her by black children – we’re talking kids under 10. They would also steal her purse, and she had to keep it locked in the teacher’s desk.

            (My liberal family sometimes discusses this, and their general opinion is that the Poor Dears came from nothing in Africa, so you can’t expect them not to be overwhelmed by the bounty of the West and steal.)

            But yes, the “perpetual victim” thing exists. It’s less blacks up here, and more the Natives. They’re our “blacks,” Their alcohol and drug use, and inability to build their reservations into anything but dirty dumps – all blamed on us.

            They also abuse their animals at a shocking rate. My aunt works for various animal rescue groups, and they go up to the reservations on a regular basis to do sweeps and collect abused and neglected animals to bring back to the city, nurse back to health and adopt out to whites. It’s such tough psychological work that they are careful who they let do it, because people can come back from sweeps having a total breakdown at what they saw. My aunt told me a story of how one woman ended up curled up on the ground outside the animal rescue truck sobbing. A native woman then came up to her to tell her how well she takes care of her cat, and, “I just want you to know that we’re not ALL like…that.”

            My aunt’s opinion (and this is apparently shared by people she works with) is that this is “cultural.” They go up there to do educational programs about taking care of animals. She tells the same story about doing these programs EVERY Christmas dinner. That it doesn’t seem to have had the slightest effect has not deterred them.

            So yes. It’s all the same, but it’s different.

  • Lexonaut

    I was reading at first, then skimming, and then I came directly here to make a comment …

    I have no interest in whether a community is diverse as such. What I care about are crime rates and education levels — my family’s personal safety and whether my grandchildren’s kids are going to feel motivated to get a good education.

    There is every reason to believe that diversity for diversity’s sake is what is killing the nation, and that far from being a bad thing, separation of the races is actually essential.

  • John Smith

    This data will be used to “open up” neighborhoods to increased diversity with section 8 housing. I’m also sure Lincoln, NE and Scottsdale are now on a list at HUD for further attention, unlike Gary, Detroit or Laredo.

  • Rob

    ‘The Most Diverse Cities Are Often the Most Segregated’
    WOW, don’t you just love libs. They extoll the virtues of DIE-versity, but then they want to stay far away from that wonderful DIE-versity.

  • Hilis Hatki

    Familiarity breeds contempt…. and distance.

  • Light from the East

    I also found that the level of segregation has a positive high correlation with genetic distance of each race. In terms of different races, people with closer genetic makeups tend to integrate better than the opposite.

  • Fidelis ad urnam

    “Scored poorly”, “perfectly integrated”. God, why do these people think that they can formulate preferences for everybody else? They treat the American public like kindergarteners, thinking they can herd us all into thier own little pre-set categories.

    • Augustus3709

      It gives them purpose in life. They make a living out of being “moral crusaders” to compensate for being basically useless people.

  • Eagle1212

    I avoid these areas altogether and live where there’s little diversity, glad I live in a middle class neighborhood where no lowlife criminals are seen.

  • voiceofstl

    University City that boarders St.Louis is the most liberal town in st. louis, it brags about its diversity. Its 50/50 black and white…….and its public school is %95 black.

  • 4xtraXX

    what a bunch of Fox news network watching idiots.
    You guys are OBSESSED with keeping a score board on race and crime when in fact that violent crime has DROPPED over 50% in the last decade.

    When you see Pookie and Ray Ray robbing liquor stores you guys REALLY think that this stuff represents the ENTIRE black race.
    Im serious, you guys sound like a bunch of paranoid wackos