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Photo by Brian Addison. Above: DTLA from atop Griffith Park. Graphics courtesy of Apartment List.
Every single metro area in the entire country still faces significant racial residential segregation—with Los Angeles Metro area (LA Metro) sitting at #10 on the list of metros most segregated—according to a new report by former Federal Reserve researcher and current housing economist Chris Salviati of Apartment List.
Salviati’s data shows that the LA Metro has an overall segregation index of 0.53, meaning 53% of the region’s entire population of color would have to move in order for our metro achieve higher levels of equity when it comes to who lives where. When it comes to specific races, LA Metro’s black segregation index is 0.67 while indexes for Hispanic and Asian households are 0.61 and 0.48.
Salviati is quick to note that while some areas’ forms of segregation are due to historical policies which directly sought to keep mainly blacks out of white neighborhoods, from exclusionary zoning to racial covenants where deeds literally read “whites only.”
Take, for example, Los Angeles’ own dark history of redlining and using racial covenants to bar black folks from ever likely owning a home; these policies’ legacies are now met with the current state of systemically discriminatory policies which continue to contribute to a lack of ownership amongst minority populations and household incomes that rarely meet the median of a given metro.
“We still have a long way to go to ensure that equality of opportunity is not negatively impacted by the neighborhood in which a person is raised,” Salviati said. “Residential segregation can be directly traced to the legacy of discriminatory housing practices such as redlining, and although overall rates of residential segregation have fallen since 2009—albeit slightly, like in LA, where it decreased from 0.56 to 0.53—some metros are seeing small increases in their residential segregation indexes.”
The results aren’t just Whites Live There, Blacks Live Here. Salviati’s research shows that residential segregation is associated with a multitude of impediments, including greater rent burdens, lower homeownership rates, and further discrimination for minority households.
Salviati notes that not all segregation looks the same, varying in severity—but it still exists in every major city. Check out Milwaukee, deemed the country’s most segregated metro, and Seattle, deemed #2 on that list:
“In Milwaukee, the severity of residential segregation is evidenced by the stark divide between the dark blue sections of the map, where minority populations are concentrated, and the light blue sections which are overwhelmingly white,” said Salviati. In the Milwaukee metro as a whole, minorities make up 32% of the population, but rather than being evenly dispersed throughout the metro, 55.8 percent of Milwaukee’s minorities live in Census tracts that are less than 25 percent white. The issue is even more extreme for Milwaukee’s black population, 74.6 percent of whom live in concentrated minority tracts. Meanwhile, minorities are largely absent from many other parts of the metro
“In comparison to Milwaukee, the map for Seattle contains a fuller spectrum of shades between the two extremes. That said, even here, there are still clearly discernible patterns of minority concentration,” Salviati said.
These patterns are deeply rooted to the discriminatory policies previously mentioned. In fact, Salviati said that his analysis shows that segregation is most extreme in metros that were well established before 1970—as opposed to metros which experiencing growth post-Fair Housing Act.
And while all minority groups experience segregation, it disproportionately falls onto black populations.
Some factoids when it comes to our black brothers and sisters and their homes in the United States—or lack thereof:
- Across the 250 largest metros, the average black segregation index is 25 percent higher than the average index for Hispanic Americans, the second most segregated minority.
- Black households also have the largest gap in homeownership rates compared to white households.
- Black households, in addition to facing the highest rates of residential segregation, also tend to have lowest homeownership rates: across the nation, 72.4% of whites own homes, compared to 57.3% of Asian households, 48.4% of Hispanic households, and just 42.2% of black households.
- Most cases of segregation did not emerge “naturally,” but rather informally and institutionally through behaviors and policies—and the population which was and is hindered through and affected by those discriminatory actions the most are our black populations.
- The black segregation index only fell by 2.4% from 0.61 in 2009 to 0.59 in 2016.