Fifty years after passage of laws meant to break down barriers to racial integration, segregation in the American city persists.
And it has a cost. A new analysis by the Urban Institute, in collaboration with Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, models how economic indicators in the country’s hundred largest commuting zones (a proxy for metropolitan areas) vary according to racial and economic segregation.
Using data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 U.S. Census, the researchers found that economic and racial segregation are correlated with bad outcomes not only for segregated groups, but for regions as a whole. In doing so, they make the case that racial and economic segregation—as much as the crime rate, median household income, and the prevalence of college degrees—should be a concerted focus of local, state, and federal leaders.
“We find that higher levels of economic segregation are associated with lower incomes, particularly for black residents,” they write. “Further, higher levels of racial segregation are associated with lower incomes for blacks, lower educational attainment for whites and blacks, and lower levels of safety for all area residents.” We know how covenants, redlining, and racial violence kept black families from building home equity, the central factor in the racial wealth gap. Now we’re learning how segregation drags down important economic indicators for entire regions.