Black-White Segregation and Isolation
Black-white segregation remains very high except in the metropolitan areas with the smallest black populations. Over twenty years, segregation declined by more than 12 points in metro areas with less than 5% black population, and by nearly 10 points in areas that are 10-20% black. But in those areas with 20% or more blacks, the decline was only half that (about 6 points). The total black population of this latter set of metro areas (20% or more black) is nearly 15 million, about half the national total. This means that the African American population in the United States is about equally divided between regions where there has been moderate progress since 1980 and regions where progress is very slender.
This conclusion is illustrated in the chart on the following page. After that we present a map of the United States showing the metro areas with the highest and lowest concentrations of black population.
The next tables in this sequence list the 50 metropolitan regions in the country that had the largest black populations in 2000. Of these, the 10 with the highest levels of segregation include: Detroit, MI; Milwaukee, WI; New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Newark, NJ: Cleveland, OH, Cincinnati, OH, Nassau-Suffolk, NY; St. Louis, MO; and Miami, FL. These mainly Rustbelt metro areas represent the regions of the country where black-white segregation has been most resistant to change. There have been moderate declines in some of them, but 6 of the 10 declined by 4 points or less over the past twenty years.
At the other extreme, there are several places on this list where segregation has now fallen into what social scientists consider the moderate range (under 50). These include several mid-sized metropolitan regions in the South: Charleston, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh-Durham, and Augusta. Riverside-San Bernardino (California) also falls in this category. In most of these segregation declined by 5 or 10 points, or even more, since 1980.
Despite these signs of progress in the South, there are also examples of persistent
segregation in large Southern cities. For example, in New Orleans, metro-wide segregation
dropped only two points and remains above the national average (at 69.3). In Atlanta the
news is mixed. Metro-level segregation has declined by 12 points, mainly due to a shift of
African Americans to the suburbs. But it is still slightly above the national average (at
65.6), and segregation in the city of Atlanta has actually risen in the last twenty years
(from 79.5 to 81.6) and is much higher than the national city average.