New York Times March 23, 2001
Races Still Tend to Live Apart in New York, Census Shows
By JANNY SCOTT
The population of New York City and its suburbs may be more diverse than ever, but analyses of data from the 2000 census suggest there has been little change in the tendency of whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians to live apart from one another. In fact, in some cases, their isolation has increased.
The analyses, done by researchers at the State University at Albany, indicate
little change since 1990 in what they find to be a high degree of residential
segregation between non-Hispanic whites and blacks, and an increase in the clustering
of Latinos and Asians in enclaves of their own.
"I think New Yorkers often feel that they live in a very diverse place and that it must be very integrated," said John R. Logan, a sociologist at the university who has analyzed the census figures. "And it's true that in almost every part of New York there's at least some minority presence.
"But what we don't see is the extent to which the neighborhoods that have
real concentrations of minority-group members really are isolated enclaves,
and very large shares of those groups live in those places. We don't see those
because it's not our experience, but it is the experience of the members of
The reasons for the patterns are not entirely clear. Residential segregation has been a product of multiple forces, from housing discrimination and real estate prices to the tendency of new immigrants to gravitate to communities with the social networks and institutions they need.
"So some level of dissimilarity is to be expected," said John H.
Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York.
"But the high levels that we've always had in black-white segregation, they are something that goes beyond mere choice, whim or taste, I think."
Douglas S. Massey, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania,
said: "Older cities that were built up during the industrial era and then
rapidly suburbanized after World War II have become a formula for black-white
segregation. A lot of times, black settlement moves and crosses the city line
into suburban areas. "It is these working-class and older suburbs, closer
to the cities with established black communities, that are vulnerable to resegregation."
Researchers have long calculated levels of residential integration and segregation in cities and regions by using a series of measures, or indexes. The indexes estimate things like isolation, exposure and so-called dissimilarity, the extent to which one group is distributed differently from another across a territory.
Professor Logan found that the levels of dissimilarity in the distribution of blacks and whites in the New York metropolitan area and in the Newark area were among the highest in the country. The levels were also high for Asians and blacks, but lower for Hispanics and blacks and for Asians and whites.
In other words, whites live more separately from other groups, especially Hispanics and blacks, than those groups do from one another. "As immigration occurs, segregation is going to rise, especially when you're using the index of dissimilarity, which measures the evenness with which groups are spread out," said Emily Rosenbaum, an associate professor of sociology at Fordham University. "Immigrants don't, of course, randomly settle throughout the metropolitan area."
Using the so-called isolation index, Professor Logan found that the percentage
of whites in the average white person's census tract had dropped slightly since
1990. But the percentage of Latinos in the average Latino's tract, and Asians
in the average Asian's tract, had risen.
Whites' isolation appeared to have declined mainly because there were more
Asians and Hispanics, but not blacks, in their tracts.
A third measure, called the exposure index, found that the typical white person
lived in a tract that was about 6 percent black, as it was in 1990; the percentage
of Asians and Hispanics in the tract rose to nearly 11 and 14 percent, respectively.
"The median black person has less exposure to whites in 2000 than in 1990,"
Professor Mollenkopf observed from Professor Logan's findings. Professor Logan
posted his findings on his center's Web site at www.albany.edu/mumford/census.
Professor Logan's center is the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and
The reasons for that finding, Professor Mollenkopf said, could include the
influx of West Indian immigrants into West Indian neighborhoods; housing discrimination;
the rise of housing prices in white neighborhoods; and decisions on the part
of some higher-income blacks to leave the city.
In the past, Professor Logan said, he has found that Latinos and Asians with
relatively lower incomes and less education who have arrived recently and who
do not speak English were more likely than others to concentrate in ethnic neighborhoods.
While many move on, nonwhite Hispanics are more likely than others to remain,
regardless of income and language ability.
David Rebovich, a political scientist at Rider University in Lawrenceville,
N.J., said segregation in New Jersey had been fueled by high real estate prices
and suburban communities' use of zoning to keep out low- and moderate-income
"The other reality, it's dreadful to say, is that many black New Jerseyans just do not feel they are welcome in certain places," he said.