Race, segregation, and Census 2010—what does it mean?

In our final installment in the very short series on race and Census 2010, we try to draw some conclusions about segregation and integration in the U.S. today.

It may seem contradictory that many white Americans feel their towns and neighborhoods are home to more non-white residents than ever before at the same time that non-white segregation is holding steady or, for Asian Americans, increasing slightly. If a town goes from 90% white to 77% white, that is an appreciable, visible change—but it’s still a white majority that should be shrinking faster, given the pace of Latino and Asian immigration.

According to The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census (which is the official report by Logan and Stults, as referenced in part 2 of this series), “the typical white lives in a neighborhood that is 75% white, 8% black, 11% Hispanic, and 5% Asian. This represents a notable change since 1980, when the average whites’ neighborhood was 88% white, but it is very different from the makeup of the metropolis as a whole.” How is the average white American’s experience different from the “metropolis as a whole”?

The experience of minorities is very different. For example, the typical black lives in a neighborhood that is 45% black, 35% white, 15% Hispanic, and 4% Asian. The typical Hispanic lives in a neighborhood that is 46% Hispanic, 35% white, 11% black and 7% Asian. The typical Asian lives in a neighborhood that is 22% Asian, 49% white, 9% black, and 19% Hispanic.” 

There is an interesting chart that appears after this illustrating this data, which basically shows how likely you are to experience white neighbors according to your race. Asians’ neighbors are 50% white, Hispanics’ and black Americans’ neighbors are 35% white. White Americans’ neighbors are 77% white. Asian Americans are the only one of the four groups who do not live in neighborhoods in which they are the majority. In neighborhoods where most Asian people live, whites and Hispanics make up the majority of residents.

Assessing segregation and integration data by city requires a lot of background information. While black-white segregation fell dramatically in both New Orleans and Kansas City, in New Orleans it was because so many black people were forced to leave the city when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their neighborhoods, while in Kansas City the integration has no negative, temporary, “act of God” backstory—the people of the city are just integrating more.

The historian has to consider why it is black Americans who are still least likely to integrate in large numbers with white Americans. There’s never one reason. It’s a combination of factors, including the fact that Hispanic and Asian Americans are more likely to be considered newcomers who might adopt white culture, and therefore be acceptable, while black Americans are seen as possessing a unique culture that a) will never change and b) is diametrically opposed to white culture. The well-documented centuries of slavery and Jim Crow that describe black-white relations lead to suspicion and resentment, fear and anger on both sides, while the identically horrible racist campaigns against Asians in the late 19th- and early-to-mid-20th centuries are not as well-known outside the Asian American population, and therefore Asian Americans have more of a “blank slate”. Housing discrimination is still an issue, or course, most seriously for black Americans, but also for Latinos and Asian Americans. 

While color works against black Americans, language works against Hispanics. For at least 170 years, and maybe since 1700, Americans have inveighed against foreigners coming in and refusing to speak English, trying to overthrow English, working as agents of a foreign government. So it goes with Latino immigrants today. Latinos are moving away from their Latino immigrant neighborhoods—in 1980, 55% of Latinos lived in majority Latino neighborhoods, while in 2010 40% do. That’s quite a drop. And data shows that as Latinos raise families in the U.S., they are very likely to stop speaking Spanish entirely. A second-generation Asian American is far more likely to speak an Asian language than is a second-generation Latino American to speak Spanish.

This is just the barest summary of part of the information in the 2010 Census. Studying the Census is one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking things you can do. This latest window into who we are as Americans has its depressing and its uplifting aspects. We have to take our cue from its findings and do what we can to keep integration moving steadily upward, and segregation vanishing into the past.

Segregation and Census 2010

In this second installment in a very short series on the 2010  U.S. Census results, we’ll look at one parsing of that data by John Logan of Brown University and Brian Stults of Florida State University . The focus here, at Census Analysis: Nation’s diversity grows, but integration slows, is black, Latino, white, and Asian residential patterns.

How is integration slowing? Here are the bullet findings:

  • Black-white segregation averaged 65.2 in 2000 and 62.7 now.
  • Hispanic-white segregation was 51.6 in 2000 and 50 today.
  • Asian-white segregation has grown from 42.1 to 45.9.

As Logan and Stults point out, white Americans basically live in mostly white neighborhoods—77% white. That is down from 88% white in 1980, but still pretty segregated. Black and Latino Americans live in black and Latino neighborhoods, and Asian Americans, whose integration rate into white neighborhoods had been growing, now increasingly live in Asian or other non-white neighborhoods.

Black and Latino neighborhoods are becoming even more homogenous. I happened to hear Dr. Logan on the radio explain it this way: if, in 1990, you were a Latino, you lived in a neighborhood that was mostly Latino, but not entirely. It might be 50% Latino, 30% black, 20% Asian. But in 2010, that same neighborhood is likely to be %70 Latino, 20% black, and 10% Asian. The same goes for black Americans–their neighborhoods are increasingly less racially diverse.

This is explicable when it comes to Latinos because of increased Latino immigration–there are more Latinos coming into the U.S. and moving into majority Latino neighborhoods. (This is particularly true in the southwest.) One in 6 Americans is now Latino; this is reflective of increased Latin American immigration since the 1970s.

In the case of black Americans, the increasing homogeneity of black neighborhoods may be due to the falling rate of Asian integration into white neighborhoods and the slow pace of Latino integration. Again, on the radio Dr. Logan said that white neighborhoods are usually integrated first by Asian people, then by Latino people, and then by black people. If fewer Asian and Latino people are integrating, there is less integration by black people.

It will be interesting to learn in a few years, when sociologists conclude their investigations, why Asian American segregation is increasing, and how quickly Latinos move out of new-immigrant neighborhoods into mixed neighborhoods. Every new immigrant group starts out in homogenous immigrant neighborhoods—every major American city has its Little Italy, Chinatown, Little India, etc. It’s natural to live amongst people who speak your language and share your experiences. But then they begin to move out, and to integrate into non-immigrant society. The fact that black Americans remain least likely to integrate is a red flag to all Americans, a wake-up call saying we all need to get over the slave-era idea that black Americans are different—too different—from all other Americans to assimilate.

While integration should move faster, I remain optimistic. At least it continues to happen. As usual, the U.S. leads the way in integrating people of literally every nation, race, culture, religion, and ethnicity in the world into one American people. As we see European nations just now beginning, in the last two decades, to try to cope with serious immigration from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and struggling with race riots, protests, and fascist movements as a result, we remember that it is always hard for human beings to live together, and it takes a concerted effort to make that possible in this nation—an effort we have to continually renew.

Next time: summarizing the data

The 2010 Census data is in!!

It’s a very exciting historical moment when census data is published. It is a real example of the historic present; you see where your every day lived reality fits into much bigger, much longer historical frames—where you are in an era. We’re going to take a look at the census data from a few angles. The first step is to dive in to the raw data, which you can do in a fascinating way at Mapping the U.S. Census. Rollover a county to see general data, enter an address, zip code, or city at top right to get amazingly detailed maps–for example, if you put in your zip code just that area comes up (your very own “census tract”).  Take a look at where you live, or have lived, and see the changes.

Then take a look at Prof. John Logan’s census analysis . Logan is a sociologist at Brown University who has studied census data for decades. He has interesting analysis on segregation and the impact of race—as in, what difference does it make if Asians begin moving to white neighborhoods, as opposed to Latinos, as opposed to black people?

Next time: How we are sorted