Posts Tagged ‘segregation’

A Street Divided

The sharpest contrast in American communities is that between black and white neighborhoods. There is no greater spatial distinction in our cities. Everyone is aware of it. Would-be homebuyers shop accordingly; parents pick schools accordingly; employers hire accordingly; drivers plan routes accordingly–that is, when homebuyers, parents, employers, and drivers have some choice in the matter.

This great segregation of black and white, scholars had thought, was produced in the twentieth century. New research reveals a more complex story, as described in my latest column for the Boston Reviewhere.

Updates (11/14/16; 1/8/18):

A 2016 article by John Logan and Benjamin Bellman:

“Although some scholars treat racial residential segregation in northern cities as a twentieth-century phenomenon, recent research on New York and Chicago has shown that black-white segregation was already high and rising by 1880. We draw on data from the Philadelphia Social History Project and other new sources to study trends in this city as far back as 1850 and extending to 1900, a time when DuBois had completed his epic study of The Philadelphia Negro. Segregation of “free negroes” in Philadelphia was high even before the Civil War but did not increase as the total and black populations grew through 1900. Geocoded information from the full-count data from the 1880 Census makes it possible to map the spatial configuration of black residents in fine detail. At the scale of the street segment, segregation in that year was extraordinarily high, reflecting a micropattern in which many blacks lived in alleys and short streets. Although there was considerable class variation in the black community, higher-status black households lived in areas that were little different in racial and class composition than lower-status households.”

A 2017 article by John Logan, and this time with , expands the analysis of segregation that uses new, more precise ways of analyzing location, and which shows the ways that 19th century southern cities were segregated, alley by alley:

“In southern cities the authors find qualitatively distinct configurations that include not only black ‘neighborhoods’ as usually imagined but also backyard housing, alley housing, and side streets that were predominantly black. These configurations represent the sort of symbolic boundaries recognized by urban ethnographers. By mapping residential configurations and interpreting them in light of historical accounts, the authors intend to capture meanings that are too often missed by quantitative studies of segregation [using cruder measures].”


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Place Matters More

As Bay Area residents have known for a while and as readers of The New York Times just read and NPR listeners just heard, much of downtown San Francisco real estate is being snapped up by young, hip, affluent workers in the information technology industry. The Facebook-Apple-Google-Etc. folk are willing to commute long distances to their desks in Silicon Valley – albeit in special, wired, comfort buses. Some tech firms have moved into or expanded office space in the City, most notably Twitter, in part for clear business reasons, but in large measure, it seems, because their employees live nearby. The effects on housing are evident. (A San Francisco blogger several months ago listed the reasons “all my friends are moving to Oakland.” Included were “Divis [Divisadero Street] is clogged with Google buses” and “The [Oakland] landlords aren’t looking for ways to kick you out. You won’t have to have six roommates. You won’t get outbid for a room by some dot-com f***face.”)

Tech workers await bus in S.F. (source)

Tech workers await bus in S.F. (source)

That thousands of well-heeled buyers and renters are choosing inner-city San Francisco — as many others are choosing inner-city New York or Chicago — illustrates a trend that has been going on for quite a while and that has been accentuated by the Great Recession: affluent Americans moving and segregating themselves to pursue the lifestyles they associate with particular places.

In a previous post, I pointed out the widening differences between metropolitan areas by social class and the increasing segregation, since at least the 1960s, between urban neighborhoods by residents’ income. Here I review a few new studies on a byproduct of these trends, separation by cultural taste. One take-away is that America’s widening economic inequality is being more deeply inscribed on the residential landscape. Another is that in age of jet travel, instantaneous communications, and 3-D downloads, an age just a bit short of Star-Trek beaming, where Americans live seems to matter to them more, not less.


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