Richmond is the 39th most racially segregated city in America

08/16/2014 9:36 AM by

A piece tying together historic housing policies and current events in Ferguson, Missouri, links to a study by John R. Logan (Brown University) and Brian J. Stults (Florida State University) on segregation in American cities.

Among the 50 metropolitan regions in the country with the largest black populations in 2010, Richmond is listed as only the 39th most segregated. Richmond is also listed as having the 19th highest level of isolation, which describes “the % minority in the neighborhood where the average minority group member lives”. This seems more of an accurate measure of what has been the typical neighborhood experience in the city.

Some of the parts from the study which jumped out:

In 367 metropolitan areas across the U.S., 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.

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.

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Note that at 51.6, Richmond is approaching a level of segregation that “social scientists consider the moderate range (under 50)”.

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Large Southern cities provide examples of persistent segregation: Birmingham, Memphis, and Baton Rouge fit into this category. But others have seen improvements – and Atlanta is the outstanding example, having experienced more change though it still falls among the top 25 on this list.

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Another way to assess segregation is by level of isolation (i.e., the % minority in the neighborhood where the average minority group member lives). … What is most striking about these figures is that with very few exceptions, the Isolation Index is above 40 in the largest metro regions. African Americans live in neighborhoods where they are an absolute majority, or a near majority, in most of these places.

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It’s difficult not to think of Richmond as segregated, even as the city’s population as a whole kind of shakes out. The concept of isolation is apparent in the details from Dustin Cable’s map of the United States based on the 2010 census data. There are very few places in the city that don’t seem to be either black OR white.

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The patterns on the map don’t seem that different than 1946.

"Location of Negro areas" (Bartholomew’s 1946 Master Plan)

“Location of Negro areas” (Bartholomew’s 1946 Master Plan)

…or the 1930s…

"Residential Security Map" (Redlining Richmond / 1937)

“Residential Security Map” (Redlining Richmond / 1937)




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