Black segregation lowest in a century, U.S. census finds

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Niccolo and Donkey
Black segregation lowest in a century, U.S. census find


December 14, 2010

America’s neighbourhoods took large strides toward racial integration in the past decade as black people and white people chose to live near each other at the highest levels in a century. Still, segregation in many parts of the U.S. persisted, with Hispanic people in particular turning away from whites.

The new information is among the Census Bureau's most detailed releases yet for neighbourhoods, pending demographic results from the official 2010 census next spring.

The race trends hint at the upcoming political and legal wrangling over the 2010 census figures, to be published beginning next Tuesday. The data will be used to reallocate congressional districts, drawing new political boundaries.

New Hispanic-dominated districts could emerge, particularly for elected positions at the state and local level. States are required under the Voting Rights Act to respect the interests of minority voting blocs, which tend to support Democratic candidates.

The findings on segregation are based on a pair of demographic measures that track the degree to which racial groups are evenly spread between neighbourhoods. Both measures showed declines in black-white segregation from 2000 to the lowest in generations.

For instance, the average white person now lives in a neighbourhood that is 79-per-cent white, compared to 81 per cent in 2000. The average black person lives in a 46-per-cent black neighbourhood, down from 49 per cent. For Hispanics, however, their average neighbourhood last year was 45-per-cent Hispanic, up slightly from 44 per cent.

Segregation among blacks and whites increased in one-fourth of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, compared to nearly one-half for Hispanics.

The latest figures reflect new generations of middle-class blacks moving to prosperous, fast-growing cities, said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution, who reviewed the census data. “In contrast, the faster national growth of Hispanics has led to increased neighbourhood segregation,” Mr. Frey said.

Among other findings:

Broken down economically, in 21 counties more than one in three people lived in poverty, many of them American Indian reservations in the High Plains.

New Orleans was among metropolitan areas with the largest decline in segregation among blacks and whites since 2000, due largely to the exodus of low-income blacks from the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Four New York counties – which represent four of New York City's five boroughs except for Manhattan – ranked at the top of longest commute times to work, all in excess of 40 minutes: Richmond (Staten Island), Queens, Kings (Brooklyn) and Bronx. Residents in King, Tex., had the quickest trip: 3.4 minutes.

Only three U.S. localities reported median household income of more than $100,000, down from seven in 2000. Falls Church, Va., with the highest median household income at $113,313, also had the highest share of people age 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher. In all, 17 of the nation’s 3,221 counties had college-completion rates of more than 50 per cent, compared to 62 counties whose rates were less than 10 per cent.