A Fine-Grained View of Household Segregation Patterns
Researchers from Ohio State University and the College of William and Mary have created the first household-level measure of segregation for the United States. Using U.S. Census manuscript files from 1880 to 1940, the researchers tracked the racial similarity of next-door neighbors across the United States across a sixty year span. Traditional statistics about segregation typically look at the racial composition of a city and its wards or offer similarly broad views of racial distribution. This can mask fine-grained segregation occurring within or between blocks. The authors’ new measure instead considers the proximity of each household to one of a different race.
The concept of viewing segregation at a more fine-grained level may be applied to current analyses of segregation and micro-segregation. The revised view of the historical persistence and growth of racial segregation in the United States over time may further assist with the analysis of the causes and potential remedies.
- Between 1880 and 1940, having neighbors of the same race became increasingly common in every region of the U.S. – in cities, rural areas, areas with an increase in African-American residents, and areas with a decrease in the African-American population.
- In 1880, there was a 50% chance that an African-American household lived next door to a non-African-American household. In 1940, the probably of a different-race neighbor was more than 15 percentage points lower.
- Segregation doubled nationally from 1880 to 1940, across all regions of the United States.
- The dramatic increase in segregation was more widespread that would be suggested by urbanization, black migratory patterns, or “white flight” from cities to suburban areas.
- Contrary to previous estimates, urban areas in the South had the nation’s highest levels of segregation when viewed at the household level. In the North, Whites and African-Americans were more likely to live in close proximity to one another, even though they were more likely to live in the same wards in the South.