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Chicago Most Segregated City In America, Despite Significant Improvements In Last Decade

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First Posted: 01/31/2012 12:49 pm Updated: 01/31/2012 12:49 pm

The results of a Census data study conducted by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research revealed that segregation in urban areas has gone down nationwide, with Chicago experiencing the second-largest declines. But the study, titled "The End of the Segregated Century," also found that Chicago remains the most racially segregated city in the country.

"A half-century ago, one-fifth of America’s urban neighborhoods had exactly zero black residents," wrote study authors Edward Glaeser and Jacob L. Vigdor in the report summary. "Today, African-American residents can be found in 199 out of every 200 neighborhoods nationwide."

But the report attributes a significant proportion of these advances in integration to African-Americans' departure from older, more segregated cities in favor of "less segregated Sun Belt cities and suburbs." For example, Chicago's current "great migration," which has drawn many black residents to southern cities.

The report also cites African-Americans' increased access to credit, and fairer housing laws, for the desegregation, allowing for more integration in suburban neighborhoods and the dismantling of some formerly-homogenous ghettos. In Chicago, the study specifically highlights the demolition of the city's housing projects as a contributor to the significant advances in racial integration here.

"Over the last decade, Chicago had the second-largest declines in dissimilarity and isolation among this top-ten group (after Houston), which illustrates a more natural trend where more segregated areas had the sharpest declines in segregation," the report says of the ten most populated cities in the country.

But analysis based on "isolation," or the tendency for single neighborhoods to be dominated by one racial group, and "dissimiliarity," the evenness with which two racial groups are distributed, finds Chicago remains the most segregated city in the U.S. ten years later. Dallas and Houston are the least segregated large cities, according to the study.

The study compares current data with statistics from the 1960s, or "the heyday of racial segregation."

"During those years, the fight against housing segregation seemed to offer the possibility that once the races mixed more readily, all would be well. Forty years later, we know that this dream was a myth," the report concludes. "There is every reason to relish the fact that there is more freedom in housing today than 50 years ago...[but] while the decline in segregation remains good news, far too many Americans still lack the opportunity to achieve meaningful success."

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Filed by Lizzie Schiffman  |