Special Report

16 Most Segregated Cities in America

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16. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 39.9%
> Black population: 39.1%
> Black poverty rate: 34.0%
> White poverty rate: 12.1%

As far back as 1974, Shreveport ranked as one of the most segregated cities in America. Today, some 39.9% of African Americans in the Shreveport-Bossier City metro area live in predominantly black neighborhoods — neighborhoods in which at least 50% of residents are also black. Nationwide, 18.1% of African Americans live in predominantly black neighborhoods.

Largely black area neighborhoods include Ledbetter Heights, Allendale, and Mooretown. Historically, black neighborhoods have been demolished in cities across the country to make way for infrastructure and public works projects. In Shreveport, the pattern appears to be continuing. Public officials recently voted to proceed with the construction of a 3.5-mile connector highway through the Allendale neighborhood, which, according to a recent report by the public interest advocacy groups U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group, would require the demolition of at least one church and 50 homes.

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15. St. Louis, MO-IL
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 40.2%
> Black population: 18.3%
> Black poverty rate: 28.8%
> White poverty rate: 8.6%

Some 40.2% of African Americans in the St. Louis metro area live in predominantly black neighborhoods, more than twice the national share of 18.1%. Racial segregation in St. Louis is largely demarcated by Delmar Boulevard, a road running east-west through the city that divides the black-majority neighborhoods in the north from the the white-majority neighborhoods in the south.

Segregation can exacerbate socioeconomic disparities by race, as majority-black neighborhoods are often lower income and have less access to employment and education opportunities. While in St. Louis some 12.4% of residents living in predominantly black neighborhoods have a bachelor’s degree, 34.0% of residents of majority-white neighborhoods do. Additionally, one in every three households in majority-black neighborhoods live below the poverty line compared to 8.4% of households in majority-white neighborhoods.

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14. Lake Charles, LA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 40.5%
> Black population: 24.1%
> Black poverty rate: 29.8%
> White poverty rate: 12.2%

Some 40.5% of black residents in Lake Charles live in predominantly black neighborhoods, more than double the 18.1% national share. Residential segregation often further entrenches racial disparities in educational attainment, income, and unemployment. In Lake Charles, some 12.9% of black adults have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the white college attainment rate of 22.5%. Within predominantly black neighborhoods, just 8.5% of black adults have a bachelor’s degree. The typical black household in Lake Charles earns $29,712 a year, nearly $24,000 less than the typical white household in the metro area. Additionally, the black unemployment rate of 12.0% is far above the white unemployment rate of 5.7% in the city.

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13. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 40.7%
> Black population: 34.9%
> Black poverty rate: 30.2%
> White poverty rate: 10.8%

The New Orleans-Metairie metro area was the site of one of the most high-profile school desegregation crises during the 1960s. Tensions between the city’s white and black communities escalated into full-scale riots and required the intervention of armed federal marshals to protect black students. To this day, the metro area remains one of the most segregated in the country. Some 40.7% of black residents in the city live in neighborhoods in which a majority of residents are also black, far more than the 18.1% national average.

A recent report from The Data Center, a policy organization focused on Southeast Louisiana, identified some of the largest factors contributing to segregation in New Orleans today. Among them are the city’s long history of racial zoning ordinances, pre-Katrina housing conditions that left black families more vulnerable to flooding and more likely to experience long-term displacement after the storm, and post-Katrina housing policies tied to pre-hurricane housing values that favored wealthy, white neighborhoods over poorer, black neighborhoods.

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12. Macon, GA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 40.9%
> Black population: 44.7%
> Black poverty rate: 36.3%
> White poverty rate: 13.0%

While nationwide some 18.1% of African Americans live in majority-black neighborhoods, in Macon 40.9% of black residents live in predominantly black neighborhoods. Residential segregation in Macon has likely contributed to segregation in the city’s school system. According to local newspaper The Telegraph, the number of white students relative to black students at Bibb County public schools fell by more than 40% over the last 20 years. As of 2016, black students outnumbered white students or white students outnumbered black students by a ratio greater than two to three in 29 of the 35 schools in the Bibb County School District.

Segregation in the city’s school system likely exacerbates gaps in educational attainment. While fewer than three out of four adults in predominantly black neighborhoods in Macon have a high school diploma, 89.1% of adults in the metro area’s majority-white neighborhoods do.