Special Report

16 Most Segregated Cities in America

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11. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 41.1%
> Black population: 12.2%
> Black poverty rate: 35.5%
> White poverty rate: 9.5%

A recent report by community-based think tanks Partnership for the Public Good and Open Buffalo identified some of the key factors contributing to segregation in Buffalo. Like in many Rust Belt cities, white homeowners increasingly used restrictive covenants in property deeds after explicit racial zoning on the city level was banned. White flight to the Erie County suburbs in the 1950s left many of the city’s black residents concentrated in downtown Buffalo. Additionally, the construction of the Kensington Expressway from 1957 to 1971 displaced a large number of poor black families and physically cut off many of the neighborhoods in the East Side district from the rest of the metro area.

Today, some 41.1% of the black population in the Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls metro area live in majority-black neighborhoods, one of the largest shares in the country. Several socioeconomic measures highlight significant racial disparities. For example, the median household income and college attainment rate for white residents in the city are more than double the corresponding measures for black residents.

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10. Cleveland-Elyria, OH
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 42.5%
> Black population: 20.0%
> Black poverty rate: 33.4%
> White poverty rate: 9.7%

Some 42.5% of black residents in the Cleveland-Elyria metro area live in majority-black neighborhoods, the 10th largest share of any major city. The city has large racial disparities in a number of measures related to well-being, with median household income and the college attainment rate for white residents more than doubling the corresponding measures for black residents.

Cleveland’s history of racial segregation is similar to that of many Rust Belt cities. For example, the Home Owners Loan Corporation made detailed maps of neighborhood racial composition and the Federal Housing Administration used them in assessments of neighborhood desirability from the 1930s to the 1960s. This led to reduced investment in predominantly black neighborhoods. Many of the neighborhoods with the largest shares of black residents today are located in East Cleveland.

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9. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 42.6%
> Black population: 29.0%
> Black poverty rate: 19.2%
> White poverty rate: 6.8%

Segregation in the Baltimore metro area is largely the product of government policy in decades past. In 1911, it was illegal for a black family to move to a block that was over 50% white and for a white family to move to a block that was over 50% black. After such practices were deemed unconstitutional, white homeowners in parts of the city signed covenants to keep black households out. Race-based housing policy continued to reinforce segregation in later years as black families were often unfairly denied mortgage loans.

Today, 42.6% of the metro area’s black population lives in majority-black neighborhoods that are more likely to have limited job opportunities and widespread financial hardship. Some 24.0% of residents of predominantly black neighborhoods live in poverty, more than four times the poverty rate of 5.6% across the metro area’s white neighborhoods. Additionally, the unemployment rate of 13.6% in black neighborhoods is more than double the 4.8% jobless rate in white neighborhoods.

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8. Monroe, LA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 43.8%
> Black population: 36.0%
> Black poverty rate: 42.2%
> White poverty rate: 14.3%

Of the four Louisiana metro areas to make this list, Monroe is the most segregated. Nearly 44% of the metro area’s black residents live in majority-black neighborhoods, a larger share than in all but seven other metro areas nationwide. Economic conditions in the city’s black neighborhoods are far worse than in predominantly white areas. For example, 47.9% of the population in the majority-black neighborhoods in Monroe live in poverty, and the homeownership rate is just 35.8%. Across the metro area’s white neighborhoods, 13.8% of the population live in poverty, and the homeownership rate is 76.1%.

Lower homeownership rates and higher poverty rates in black neighborhoods are likely attributable in part to limited employment opportunities. In Monroe, some 18.5% of the workforce in majority-black neighborhoods are unemployed, more than double the 4.6% unemployment rate in majority-white neighborhoods.

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7. Albany, GA
> Black ppl. in black neighborhoods: 44.3%
> Black population: 53.1%
> Black poverty rate: 36.0%
> White poverty rate: 12.7%

Albany, Georgia, was the site of one of the earliest mass movements in the civil rights era. From late 1961 to mid-1962, the Albany Movement’s goal of desegregation of the area’s public spaces drew the involvement of such prominent leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. Ultimately, the movement ended without success, and though state-sanctioned racial segregation was rolled back throughout the 1960s, Albany remains one of the most segregated metro areas in the country.

Some 53.1% of the population of Albany are black, the largest share of any metro area in the country. Of the city’s black residents, 44.3% live in majority-black neighborhoods. The metro area’s black neighborhoods are largely characterized by depressed property values and joblessness. Some 72.7% of homes in black neighborhoods are worth less than $100,000, and 23.9% of workers in black neighborhoods are unemployed. In comparison, in Albany’s white neighborhoods, just 47.0% of homes are worth less than $100,000, and 8.5% of workers are unemployed.

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