Neighborhood Opportunities, Race, and Class: The Black Middle Class and Residential Segregation

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Abstract

Racial residential segregation has received considerable attention from social scientists who, in general, have found that African Americans, particularly those in large, northeastern and midwestern metropolitan areas have been highly segregated from whites since at least the beginning of the Great Migration. This analysis combines research on racial residential segregation with research about residential segregation based on social class in order to study the segregation of middle-class blacks from middle-class whites. By using Census data that incorporate consistent geographic definitions of Census tracts in 50 U.S. metropolitan areas from 1970 to 1990, I assess change in the levels of residential segregation between middle-class blacks and middle-class whites. The index of dissimilarity indicates that while there was a decrease in the segregation of middle-class blacks from middle-class whites between 1970 and 1990, in many metropolitan areas this segregation remained high through 1990. The analysis also shows that middle-class blacks lived in neighborhoods, on average, with considerably more poverty, more boarded-up homes, more female-headed households, and fewer college graduates than neighborhoods inhabited by middle-class whites. Overall, the results suggest that, for the most part, these groups remain residentially separated in U.S. metropolitan areas.

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