The End of Segregation? Hardly
A More Nuanced View from the New York Metropolitan Region
Author: Richard Alba and Steven Romalewski
In January, the Manhattan Institute (MI) issued a report that makes bold claims about the decline of African-American segregation in metropolitan America, as signaled by its title, The End of the Segregated Century. The report argues that a number of specific developments have led to this outcome: All-white neighborhoods have become virtually "extinct." Black migration to less segregated regions of the country and out of inner cities into suburbs has depopulated inner-city ghettos. Gentrification and immigration have reduced segregation in cities. One of the report's authors, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, has gone so far as to declare that, "Desegregation is [an] unsung U.S. success story."
The Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center, CUNY has examined these claims for the largest metropolitan area in the country: New York. Through our review of the Manhattan Institute report, recalculation of the indexes, and comprehensive mapping of the region, we find a more nuanced story, in which the end of the era of segregation is not at hand.
Without question, residential integration of African Americans is increasing, continuing a trend of desegregation that has been evident for several decades. This is a positive development. But the pace is modest and segregation remains substantial. Moreover, because of deficiencies in how the MI report measured segregation, its analysis mistakes some quite segregated situations for integrated ones, and not just in New York but throughout the country. These deficiencies affect in particular the identification of ghetto-like contexts, where many poor blacks and poor Hispanics live side by side in underserved neighborhoods. The MI report systematically understates segregation, especially in metropolitan regions that are home to large Black and Hispanic populations.
New York area case study
We provide maps and data below to illustrate the Manhattan Institute report's findings, but also its shortcomings.
About the data (for those interested in the sources):
Our maps and data tables are based on data from the US Census Bureau. In particular, we used data from the 2000 and 2010 PL94-171 and Summary File 1 data sets on race and ethnicity.
For estimates of poverty, we used the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data (table C17002), either at the "place" level for the village of Hempstead (2008-10 data downloaded from American FactFinder) or at the tract level for the Bronx (2006-10 data downloaded from Social Explorer).
The screenshots of side-by-side maps from the Center for Urban Research's "Visualizing a Changing Region" interactive maps use color-shading to show the predominant race/ethnicity group for each census block in the region. The methodology for creating those maps is explained here.
Other maps that show race/ethnicity change in selected New York City and suburban neighborhoods are based on 2000 and 2010 PL94-171 data by block group.
Citations for articles referenced in our response are listed at the end of the page.
Single-group predominance is still the prevalent residential pattern across New York City
In New York City, segregation remains potent. Despite the popular characterization of New York as a "melting pot," many neighborhoods in the city for years have seen little racial/ethnic diversity, and are dominated by one or another of the major race/ethnicity groups. The 2010 Census data at the block level show that these residential patterns continue -- the general spatial contours of segregation remain intact.
For example, of the almost 29,500 census blocks in the city with populations greater than zero in 2000 and 2010, 85% of them (24,997) had the same predominant racial/ethnic population (i.e., plurality group) in 2010 as they did in 2000.
The groups we distinguish here refer to the Census Bureau's mutually exclusive race and Hispanic origin categories as follows: 1) non-Hispanic White; 2) non-Hispanic Black; 3) Hispanic/Latino; 4) non-Hispanic Asian; & 5) all other persons (representing non-Hispanic people who checked two or more races, Native Americans, Hawaiians, or some other race). Throughout this narrative when we refer to White, Black, Asian, and others, we are referring to non-Hispanics. As the Census Bureau points out, people who identified themselves as Hispanic on the census form can be of any race.
Table 1 presents the stability of ethno-racial predominance for each of the major groups:
On a map, the pattern is even more obvious. The side-by-side maps below -- a screenshot from the Center for Urban Research's "Visualizing a Changing Region" interactive maps -- illustrates how the geographic boundary lines of single-group predominance in New York have largely remained the same over the past decade. The color shading on the maps corresponds with the major racial and ethnic categories, as the legend indicates below. The map on the left portrays the patterns in 2000; the map on the right shows 2010.
Each block is color-coded based on the block's plurality group (i.e., the largest race/ethnicity group, in terms of total number of people). Lighter shaded blocks are where the population is more mixed, and the darkest shaded blocks are where each group represents 90% or more of the block's population.
Change is happening, but it hardly amounts to the "end of the segregated century"
Ethno-racial neighborhood change is taking place. Our analysis of it is based on maps that provide a focused examination of changes in some areas of New York City that have long been considered iconic racial/ethnic enclaves. As examples of specific patterns, we present the largely Black communities of central Brooklyn, Harlem, and southeast Queens, as well as the largely White Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Central Brooklyn | Interactive Map
Encompassing the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Canarsie, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, East New York, Flatbush, Flatlands, Ocean Hill, Lefferts Garden, Prospect Heights, Rugby - Remsen Village, and Starrett City:
Central Harlem | Interactive Map
Southeast Queens | Interactive Map
Covering Baisley Park, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens North, Springfield Gardens/South Brookville, and St. Albans:
Upper East Side | Interactive Map
While the maps show that the broad spatial outlines of group neighborhoods are not changing much, within many neighborhoods change is evidently taking place. The maps reveal this by color shifts between 2000 and 2010, as many blocks have transitioned from a dark, intense color (90% or more of a block's population is composed of a single group) to a lighter shade, indicating a more mixed population.
What is often less clear is whether these changes would qualify as meaningful and stable integration, bearing out the Manhattan Institute’s conclusion about the "end of the segregated century."
The changes certainly do not support the Institute's claim about the "depopulation of the ghetto." Neighborhoods that have been considered as "ghettos" - such as areas of Brooklyn or Harlem - have seen population gains in the past decade. Though these areas have lost some Black population, they have seen gains of Hispanics and Asians (and in some cases Whites). Their status as impoverished neighborhoods for poor, minority families may not have changed.
Consider central Brooklyn as an exemplar. Table 2 summarizes race/ethnicity population shifts in this area between 2000 and 2010.
Here, a drop in Black population has been offset by increases in White, Hispanic, and Asian populations -- enough to cause a net increase in the overall population. Though parts of central Brooklyn can be considered ghettolike areas, where poverty is rampant, this community is not being depopulated. And even the Black population loss is relatively small in percentage terms.
Maps showing 2000-2010 change for census block groups that previously were plurality Black are revealing of a process of gentrification, which appears to be spurring the departure of many of the original residents. (We chose block groups for the maps below because the block-level patterns are too fine-grained and census tracts are too broad for this type of change analysis.)
The White and Asian populations are increasing in the western portion of central Brooklyn, near the predominantly White and affluent neighborhoods of Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn, suggesting an overflow from high housing-cost areas, while the Black population has shifted southwards toward Canarsie, Flatlands, and Starrett City, increasing the Black population concentrations in those neighborhoods. The Hispanic population change was more mixed throughout the area. The maps and Census data indicate this is an area in transition -- and perhaps one to communities that will ultimately be as segregated as in 2000, as the boundaries separating Whites and Asians from Blacks and Hispanics are shifting south and southeast.
At first glance, the population changes in Central Harlem, displayed in Table 3, seem akin to those in central Brooklyn. The total population has increased, despite a decline in the number of Black residents, famously the predominant group in the area. That decline has been more than offset by increases of Whites, Hispanics and Asians.
The rise in the number of Whites, more than 400 percent between 2000 and 2010, is especially noteworthy because it contradicts a long-standing tenet of the segregation literature: that Whites will not move into neighborhoods with high numbers of Black residents. This population shift also appears to represent a genuine increase in integration. The Whites are not concentrated in specific parts of the central Harlem area, but the increases in their numbers are spread throughout it.
By contrast with central Harlem, southeast Queens (summarized in Table 4) experienced a net population loss during the decade, and a substantial loss of Black population. But there were increases in the numbers of Hispanic and Asian residents, largely offsetting any "depopulation" that had occurred. Also, there was a notable decrease among Whites, reducing an already small White population to just a few thousand people. This part of the city is arguably just as segregated in 2010 as it was in 2000.
The following maps show the how the Black, White and Hispanic populations changed over the decade for census block groups in this area that were predominantly Black in 2000.
The maps reveal that the losses of Black residents, substantial for the area as a whole, were geographically uneven. Indeed, there were even Black population gains in Rosedale, along the Nassau County border to the southeast, where Whites were declining most in numbers. Conversely, Whites experienced population increases that were more concentrated in the western part of the area, where Black losses were greatest -- evidence of shifts that tend to maintain residential segregation. Asian and Hispanic population gains were more general throughout the area but also concentrated where Black losses were greatest. Since these groups were increasing their presence in the area, this pattern suggests that Asians and Hispanics are replacing Black residents in some places, underscoring that portions of this area are undergoing ethno-racial transition without necessarily achieving stable integration.
The changes on Manhattan's Upper East Side (see Table 5) illustrate one of the central arguments of the Manhattan Institute report—the virtual extinction of the all-white neighborhood. But there is no link in this case to African-American integration.
The area’s stable number of residents between 2000 and 2010 masks significant population shift. Whites, almost 85 percent of the population in 2000, declined in number, while Asians and Hispanics grew, combining to total 15 percent of residents by 2010. The Black population increased modestly and represented just a small fraction, only 2 percent, of residents by decade’s end.
Suburban shifts mix integration and segregation
Our analysis also examines aspects of the Manhattan Institute's findings regarding racial/ethnic changes in suburbia, again using New York as the focus. We look at the population shifts from 2000 to 2010 in one of the region's inner suburban counties, Nassau County on Long Island.
Table 6 below summarizes the countywide changes for the major race/ethnicity groups. Blacks continue to make modest gains while the county's White population fell by more than 10%. Hispanics and Asians both grew substantially in number and percent.
These changes have been uneven throughout the county. The maps below below (at the census block group level) isolate the percentage gains and losses for each group, first in areas where Blacks were the plurality group in 2000, then in areas (most of the county) where Whites were the plurality group.
Where Blacks were the plurality (primarily in two areas: near the Queens border in Elmont and North Valley Stream, and in the villages of Hempstead, Uniondale, Roosevelt, and northern Freeport), the White population decreased across the board. Blacks increased somewhat near the Queens border, but their population decreased in and around their Hempstead concentration. The Hispanic population increased throughout these areas, and Asians display more mixed changes. Overall, these changes suggest that these portions of Nassau County are continuing their role as minority communities, but now for a more mixed minority population, where Blacks and Hispanics are most numerous.
The maps highlighting the areas where Whites were the plurality in 2000 appear to indicate a growing integration in Nassau County, though one that may be unstable, as is suggested by White decline in some areas where the minority presence is growing most strongly.
Black population gains are spreading out from the areas, delineated above, of Black concentration—for example, they are occurring in the Town of Hempstead along the Queens border, and just west of the blank spot on the map in the middle of the town (which was color-shaded in the maps above). But they are not limited to these areas. Hispanic and Asian population gains are spread more consistently throughout the county.
The White population decreased through the county, as indicated by Table 6. But these losses are especially heavy in the western parts of the county where the Black and Hispanic populations are increasing rapidly.
The overlooked Black-Latino ghettos
Is it integration when poor Blacks and poor Latinos live together?
The main problem in the Manhattan Institute's analysis stems from its racial classification. In contrast to most other analyses of segregation, the Institute's analysis does not take Hispanic origin into account in defining the black racial category — individuals are “black” when they identify themselves as only black by race, regardless of whether they are Hispanic. The more usual practice is to define the black category as we do it here — individuals who are black by race and not Hispanic — in order to avoid confounding quite different groups, African American and, say, black Dominicans or Puerto Ricans. In addition, in the Manhattan Institute approach, the population defined as the standard for measuring integration includes everyone who is not black by race. These definitions imply that all-minority neighborhoods, in which residents are predominantly black or Hispanic, may appear as integrated. They distort the trends in segregation since 1970 because they confound the rise of post-1965 immigration, especially of Latin Americans, and its residential impacts with the integration of African Americans.
The distortions are very evident in New York neighborhoods. For example, most of the Bronx would be characterized as integrated according to the Manhattan Institute's approach. Table 7 reports the Black/non-Black population from the 2010 Census for the area of the Bronx excluding Riverdale, Williamsbridge, and Country Club/Throgs Neck (representing PUMAs 3704, 3705, 3706, 3707, 3708, 3709, and 3710). The area we examine includes the iconic poverty neighborhood, the South Bronx.
According to the MI approach, the overall population of this group of southern Bronx neighborhoods is one-third Black and two-thirds non-Black, a composition that would not seem segregated. However, according to the more conventional approach, this is far from an integrated area; it is in fact an almost all-minority one, since nearly two-thirds of residents are Hispanic and one-third African American.
This reality is illustrated in the following map. It shows block-by-block racial and ethnic patterns in the Bronx based on the 2010 census. Areas shaded green represent census blocks where the plurality group is Hispanic. The areas shaded orange represent Census blocks where the predominant group is non-Hispanic Blacks. Lighter shaded blocks are where the population is more mixed, and the darkest shaded blocks are where either Blacks or Hispanics represent 90% or more of the block's population. The map reveals that the black and Hispanic populations are thoroughly mixed, not segregated from one another
The image below -- a detailed view of the map above -- shows population totals for a sample block in the south Bronx. The block is predominantly a mix of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks, with only a handful of White residents.
The southern Bronx is also an area with a high overall rate of poverty: 36.2 percent in 2010. This area, though not dominated by African Americans, is like a ghetto, with few whites and many poor minorities, not an exemplar of integration.
With more than 1 million residents, the southern Bronx has a large impact on the measured segregation of the region as a whole, as it accounts for more than 5 percent of the total population. Nevertheless, it is not the only example of a large area that appears to be integrated by the Manhattan Institute’s approach, but is in fact a poor, heavily minority area.
Other areas with similar characteristics in the New York metropolitan region include the village of Hempstead on Long Island, areas in and around Newark, NJ and urban areas in southern Westchester County (links will open a new browser window with interactive maps with detailed area information).
For example, statistics for Hempstead Village show the following:
- 53,582 residents;
- almost equal Black (25,211 ; 47.1%) and Hispanic (23,553 ; 44.0%) populations; and
- poverty rate of almost 20% (18.9%).
Discrepancies between the Manhattan Institute's and other reports on segregation in the 2010 census
The MI method of measuring segregation produces segregation values that are generally lower than those generated when segregation is measured as the residential difference between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, the conventional method. Accordingly, there is a rhetorical gap between the MI report and others. Whereas the Manhattan Institute proclaims “the end of the segregated century,” others produce more cautions appraisals. John Logan and Brian Stults (2011 [PDF]), for example, conclude that, “the slow pace of lowering black-white segregation has continued, but there is now some change in the traditional Ghetto Belt cities of the Northeast and Midwest.”
These strikingly different conclusions stem from the discrepancies between the two approaches in measuring segregation. The gaps tend to be especially wide in regions with large black and Hispanic populations because their residential mixing, often in the least desirable neighborhoods, is treated, to a greater or less extent, as integration according to the Manhattan Institute method. For instance, in the New York region, the MI approach yields a segregation index of .647, whereas the conventional approach, implemented by John Logan and Brian Stults, finds one of .769.
A table of the segregation values produced by the two approaches for the 10 metropolitan regions with the largest black populations appears below (Table 8). (In order to match the metropolitan boundaries used in the MI report, we have extracted the appropriate segregation values under the conventional approach from the Logan-Stults website rather than their report.)
The pattern of the table seems clear: The segregation values in the MI report are lower than those calculated by the conventional approach in 9 cases out of the 10 (only Philadelphia is an exception). And the discrepancy is especially great—larger than .10—in some metropolitan regions with large Hispanic populations, such as New York, Los Angeles and Houston, though there is not a precise correlation of this gap with the proportionate size of the Hispanic population because the gap depends also on the residential patterns of the two minority groups.
The residential integration of Black Americans is increasing, and that is a development to be welcomed. But we are nowhere near the end of segregation, or even of a century of segregation. New forms of residential segregation and disadvantage have developed in the wake of large-scale immigration. One especially prevalent form is that of poor, largely minority neighborhoods in which Hispanics and African Americans live side by side.
There is an asymmetry to residential integration that the Manhattan Institute report brushes against but doesn’t really grasp. It is correct to conclude, as it does, that the all-white neighborhood is a thing of the past. Increasingly, whites in metropolitan regions live in neighborhoods of diversity. According to the Logan-Stults analysis, the average white in a metropolitan region now lives in a census tract where one-quarter of the population is Hispanic or non-white. This represents a big change since 1980, when the minority representation was only half as large. For most whites today, the daily experience in their neighborhoods feels like integration.
However, for many Blacks and Latinos, the daily experience is quite different. They live in largely minority neighborhoods, as only modest proportions of these groups are living with many whites. Moreover, many of these heavily minority neighborhoods are poor, not well served by public institutions, and vulnerable to crime. The rising economic inequality among American neighborhoods (see Reardon and Bischoff 2011 [PDF]) is no doubt increasing the distance between these very disadvantaged neighborhoods and the mainstream. The potent combination of economic and ethno-racial disadvantage marks the new boundary of segregation in American society.
- Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor, The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Separation in America’s Neighborhoods, 1890–2010 (Manhattan Institute, Civic Report No. 66, January 2012).
- John R. Logan and Brian Stults. 2011. The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census (Census Brief prepared for Project US2010).
- Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff. 2011. Growth in the Residential Segregation of Families by Income, 1970-2009 (Census Brief prepared for Project US2010).