Posted on May 4, 2018

America Is More Diverse Than Ever — But Still Segregated

Aaron Williams and Armand Emamdjomeh, Washington Post, May 2, 2018

{snip} Yet, while areas like Houston and Atlanta have undergone rapid demographic changes, cities like Detroit and Chicago still have large areas dominated by a single racial group.

Some 50 years ago, policies like the Fair Housing Act and Voting Rights Act were enacted to increase integration, promote equity, combat discrimination and dismantle the lingering legacy of Jim Crow laws. But a Post analysis shows that some cities remain deeply segregated — even as the country itself becomes more diverse.


To calculate diversity, we used what’s called the entropy index, which measures the spatial distribution of race in a given area. The more clustered together a single racial group is, the less diverse that area is. If the group is distributed evenly, then the area is considered more diverse.

Diversity beyond the city

Over the last 30 years, suburbs have increasingly become the most racial and ethnically diverse areas in the county. For example, the D.C. metro area saw the Hispanic American population increase by almost 300 percent from 1990 to 2016. The Asian American population increased by 200 percent within the same time.

Suburbs like Annandale, Va., and Silver Spring, Md., showed large increases in racial ethnic diversity compared to almost 30 years ago.


Houston is another city that has seen large growth in its Asian and Hispanic American populations. The metro area saw a more than 200 percent increase in both populations from 1990 to 2016.

A legacy of segregation

While D.C. and Houston represent the increasing diversity of the United States, that same integration isn’t equal across all racial and ethnic groups. Despite the District’s diverse suburbs, areas east of the Anacostia River remain largely inhabited by African Americans.

And while the Anacostia neighborhood and Southeast D.C. are home to some of the region’s poorest families, Prince George’s County in Maryland, just east of the District, is home to some of the wealthiest. Several neighborhoods in the county were ranked as the wealthiest black communities in the country.


According to Bader, persistent and deep segregation is somewhat unique to African Americans because of a number of factors: the legacy of segregated neighborhoods created during the era of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, ongoing racial preferences among whites to choose to live near other white people and significant Latino and Asian immigration happening at a time when fair housing laws were in place.

This deep segregation is particularly noticeable in cities with large African American populations. {snip}

Why does segregation persist?

Since 1990, a majority of U.S. metro areas have seen increases in racial diversity. While this means more Americans are living in diverse neighborhoods, the numbers are still lower than researchers anticipated.

“There have been declines [in segregation], but they just haven’t been as fast as we would expect,” said Kyle Crowder, a professor of sociology at University of Washington. {snip}

In the book, they argue that while segregation is generally decreasing, factors such as our social networks and communities play a large role in keeping segregation embedded in American life.

Decades of scholarship point to three main reasons for persistent segregation: money, preferences and discrimination. {snip}


[Editor’s Note: There are several maps with the original article.]