Segregation is on the rise in the United States. The Bay Area is no exception

The report uses a new measure called the “divergence index,” based on data from the US Census Bureau, to compare the racial makeup of a small geographic area, such as a census tract, with that


The report uses a new measure called the “divergence index,” based on data from the US Census Bureau, to compare the racial makeup of a small geographic area, such as a census tract, with that of a larger surrounding area. like a county or a metropolitan area. . Applying this methodology, the study ranks all major cities and metropolitan areas in the United States according to their levels of segregation.

This approach, Menendian argues, gives a much clearer illustration of racial segregation at the local level than the more commonly used measures which typically only compare a few racial groups within a single, larger, isolated geographic area.

“It’s more specific because it captures more racial groups and gives you a better idea of ​​the real level of segregation in an area. And it’s more precise because it’s more granular. it can give you [segregation] scores in a much smaller geographic level, ”Menendian said.

Oakland, for example, is one of the most racially diverse cities in the country. But zoom in on the map in specific neighborhoods, and a very different picture emerges of racial isolation in many communities, making it the 14th most segregated city in the country based on the metric of the study.

With the accompanying mapping tool, users can view segregation rates across the country between 1980 and 2019 by state, metropolitan area, city, up to census tract.

Contrary to popular perceptions of the United States, the report finds that the country’s most segregated regions are in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, followed by the West Coast – most often in Democratic strongholds like Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In contrast, rates of segregation are more often lower in more conservative and less urban regions such as the Plains, Western Mountain and parts of the South.

“This is not exclusively a Red State, Red Metro or Red City issue,” said Craig Gurian, longtime civil rights lawyer and executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center. “In fact, the country’s blue zones in terms of political affiliation stand out quite clearly in terms of high segregation. It’s pretty much everywhere.

Interestingly, cities with nearby military bases, like Colorado Springs and Killeen, Texas, tend to be the most racially integrated areas in the country.

“These are places where people come together in a sustained and deliberate way,” Menendian said. “Because the structures of segregation and racial inequality are so deeply ingrained in our society that it takes some kind of deliberate effort. “

The report is limited to directly explaining the underlying causes of residential segregation or to proposing specific solutions. It also does not mention some unintended consequences that have resulted from some integration efforts, such as gentrification and displacement.

But in explaining his findings, Menendian repeatedly hints at more than a century of exclusionary local and federal housing policies that have made racial segregation such a deeply entrenched aspect of the American landscape. In the first half of the 20th century, he said, racial conventions and discriminatory government-promoted bank lending practices, known as redlining, emerged largely as a reaction to the rapid growth of the government. black population in many northern towns during the Great Migration.

And once these blatant forms of discrimination were ostensibly outlawed by the Fair Housing Act in 1968, many state and local governments adopted more subtle but equally restrictive policies such as land preservation ordinances and zoning laws. exclusion, Menendian said. The measures have hampered development, often preventing the construction of affordable housing projects. In the Bay Area alone, he added, more than 80% of residential land is zoned exclusively for single-family homes.