Residential segregation in the United States
Residential segregation in the United States is the physical separation of two or more groups into different neighborhoods—a form of segregation that sorts population groups into various neighborhood contexts and shapes the living environment at the neighborhood level. While it has traditionally been associated with racial segregation, it generally refers to any kind of sorting based on some criteria populations (e.g. race, ethnicity, income).
- [L]eaving home is hard, and the social distance of wealth makes it even harder. [...] Just a quick comparison of black and white neighborhoods is enough to illustrate the particular challenges that face black families as they reach for middle class, or try to keep their position. The key fact is this: Even after you adjust for income and education, black Americans are more likely than any other group to live in neighborhoods with substantial pockets of poverty.
- [B]lack Americans live with a level of poverty that is simply unknown to the vast majority of whites. It’s tempting to attribute this to the income disparity between blacks and whites. Since blacks are more likely to be poor, it stands to reason that they’re more likely to live in poor neighborhoods. But the fact of large-scale neighborhood poverty holds true for higher-income black Americans as well. Middle-class blacks are far more likely than middle-class whites to live in areas with significant amounts of poverty. Among today’s cohort of middle- and upper-class blacks, about half were raised in neighborhoods of at least 20 percent poverty. Only 1 percent of today’s middle- and upper-class whites can say the same. In short, if you took two children—one white, one black—and gave them parents with similar jobs, similar educations, and similar values, the black child would be much more likely to grow up in a neighborhood with higher poverty, worse schools, and more violence. This is an outright disaster for income mobility. Given their circumstances, blacks face a reversal of their gains over the last generation. Simply put, the persistence of poor neighborhoods is a fact of life for the large majority of blacks; it’s been transmitted from one generation to the next, and shows little sign of changing.
- For millions of more ordinary black Americans, [...] even with more income and more education, they’re stuck in segregated neighborhoods. Yes, there isn’t much mobility for anyone, but that fact is especially true for blacks. Indeed, when someone says that America has a “racial hierarchy,” this is what they mean: Whether times are good or bad, blacks remain at the bottom.
- To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body. As black Americans living in a small Kentucky town, the railroad tracks were a daily reminder of our marginality. Across those tracks were paved streets, stores we could not enter, restaurants we could not eat in, and people we could not look directly in the face. Across those tracks was a world we could work in as maids, as janitors, as prostitutes, as long as it was in a service capacity. We could enter that world but we could not live there. We had always to return to the margin, to cross the tracks, to shacks and abandoned houses on the edge of town. There were laws to ensure our return. To not return was to risk being punished. Living as we did-on the edge-we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked both from the outside in and and from the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as on the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center. Our survival depended on an ongoing public awareness of the separation between margin and center and an ongoing private acknowledgment that we were a necessary, vital part of that whole. This sense of wholeness, impressed upon our consciousness by the structure of our daily lives, provided us an oppositional world view-a mode of seeing unknown to most of our oppressors, that sustained us, aided us in our struggle to transcend poverty and despair, strengthened our sense of self and our solidarity.