Friday, August 17, 2012

Racial Segregation of the College Educated

Last week in the Washington City Paper, I stated the obvious: DC's neighborhoods are segregated by race. Several readers countered that the root problem is that the city is segregated by class, and this manifests itself as a racial division since DC's rich tend to be White and the poor tend to be Black. That theory is true to an extent, but it misses a lot. Even within the highly educated social class (people over the age of 25 with a bachelors degree or higher), DC and the region appear to be extremely segregated.

The "Hot Spots" (and "Cold Spots") depicted above in red and blue are the result of complex a spatial-statistical analysis/magic trick done in ArcGIS that I don't fully understand the mechanics of, but I do know how to interpret it: 
  • Educated Blacks are concentrated in Prince George's County, DC's Ward 4, and southeastern Montgomery County. 
  • Educated Whites are clustered in the western half of DC, southwestern Montgomery County, and Fairfax County.
Mathematically, there is no reason that these clusters can't occupy the same space. In a racially integrated but socially segregated environment, you would find highly educated whites and blacks in the same census tracts. Clearly this is not the norm in the DMV.

To be fair, there are some places where White and Black college grads live side by side:

This map uses an invented indicator, equal to the number of college grads of the minority race (white or black) divided by the number of college grads of the majority race, multiplied by the number of total college grads, white or black. The closer a neighborhood is to having a 1 to 1 ratio of educated whites to educated blacks, the higher the score. And the more highly educated folks the neighborhood has overall, the higher the score. So an area with a high score on this indicator will be both highly educated and diverse.

Chances are, few clusters in the country can boast such a diverse population of highly educated residents as the places listed here, so we've got that going for us. But there's too much blue.

DC's (and America's) segregation problem is social, economic, and racial, all at the same time. And as a number of commenters noted, the real question is what can we do about it?

Apart and Parcel

Originally Printed/Posted in the Washington City Paper on August 9, 2012:
Apart and Parcel: What Housing Segregation in D.C. Looks Like

For the first time since a brief moment in the 1950s, neither African-Americans nor Caucasians account for a majority of D.C.’s population. The District of Columbia is at its most diverse, but the city remains grossly divided, a reality noted with such frequency that it threatens to become a cliché. That division, though, isn’t just rhetorical or political: It’s geographic.

The persistence of black-white residential segregation reflects the nation’s inability to fully overcome the legacy of slavery, and it negatively affects education attainment, race relations, and productivity. Despite nearly a century of legal and legislative struggles to integrate our blocks, segregation by race is still the norm in the District.