want to live somewhere diverse? find a suburb

I hope that you will forgive the shameless self-promotion, but I recently published a paper in Sociological Science (yay open access!) that examined neighborhood racial change in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston metropolitan neighborhoods with an amazingly talented colleague, Siri Warkentien.

We find mixed results related to future racial integration. On the negative side we find that recent estimates overestimate the stability of long-term racial integration. Previous studies don’t really examine the pace of neighborhood change, which reveals many integrated neighborhoods are in fact resegregating.

On a more positive note, we find that some neighborhoods really do maintain multiethnic segregation over many decades. We call those neighborhoods “quadrivial neighborhoods,” which, in Latin, means four roads coming together. These neighborhoods emerged during the 1990s and seem to make up the fastest-growing category of neighborhood in the past couple of decades (though they are not coming about as fast, nor are they as common as some have estimated).

One of the contributions that I hope we make is showing the geography of neighborhood change. Unlike previous studies, we map where different types of neighborhood changes occur. The model assigns the probability of membership to different types of neighborhood change for each neighborhood (which we defined as Census tracts); we then mapped the results. You can look for yourself on the website which we built for the project. These might be helpful if you are teaching about neighborhood change or segregation, particularly in one of the four metro areas that we studied.

The big take-aways? The black “ghetto” — that area created by malign and benign neglect of black neighborhoods — has expanded out into the outlying suburban communities (places outside of New York and Chicago that are akin to Ferguson in St. Louis.). Increasing Latino and Asian segregation looks more like a checkerboard. Pockets of increasing Latino population are surrounded by neighborhoods experiencing less or slower racial change. And finally, those quadrivial neighborhoods? Not in central cities where we focus on the diversity of the creative class. Almost all are in the suburbs or, at the very least, outlying neighborhoods in the city.

The moral, as far as I can tell from out study: racial segregation will continue to be a problem; and if you want to live somewhere really racially diverse, start looking in the ‘burbs.

(And a huge shout-out goes to Neal Carren who introduced me to d3.js on this very blog.)

5 thoughts on “want to live somewhere diverse? find a suburb”

  1. Nice job. Cool maps. A perhaps interesting detail about one specific part of Los Angeles that shows up as quadrival in the map. Torrance was a “sundown town” that did not let Blacks live there until after civil rights protests in the late 1960s. I know, I grew up there. There were substantial numbers of Mexican and Japanese people living there. When I last walked around in 2011, the area was diverse with lots of different immigrant groups.


  2. Thanks, OW!

    That is fascinating (and sad) about Torrance; I know the least about the L.A. area relative to the four cities that I studied. It’s somewhat ironic that I ended up writing an op-ed in the L.A. Times about L.A. neighborhoods regarding this work.


  3. I’m puzzled that my NYC neighborhood shows up as quadrivial. It certainly feels exclusively white as I go about my daily life.


    1. The neighborhood classifications are probabilistic, so there will be some error. In fact, we would anticipate error when we try to classify the more than 10,000 neighborhoods in these four metros with only 11 trajectories. With better programming skills, I would love to show both the probabilistic membership and the actual trajectory of racial change for all of the neighborhoods in the study.


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