Throughout the 20th century, white neighborhoods in cities throughout the country worked to keep black families out. In Baltimore, a law enacted in 1911 forbade black families from moving to blocks where half of all households were white. When the Supreme Court found such laws to be unconstitutional, homeowners signed covenants to keep black households out. Similarly, in many other cities with deeply entrenched segregation, real estate agents believed racial segregation was necessary to keep property values on an upswing.
In many cities on this list, including Chicago, segregation was already deeply rooted before 1968, the year congress enacted the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited practices of housing segregation based on race by landlords, local governments, and bank lenders. These cities generally remained highly segregated, and in some cases grew even more so. Meanwhile, cities with black populations that grew rapidly after the Fair Housing Act have become less racially segregated in recent decades.
Just as stark as racial segregation are the disparities in socioeconomic outcomes along racial lines in the cities on this list. For example, majority-black neighborhoods in the cities on this list are characterized by higher unemployment. The unemployment rate for majority-black neighborhoods is more than double that of majority-white neighborhoods in every city on this list.
Majority-black neighborhoods in these metro areas are also characterized by depressed real estate values. The share of homes in black neighborhoods worth less than $100,000 is greater than the share of such homes in majority-white neighborhoods in every metro area on this list.
Neighborhoods that are mostly black in segregated cities also tend to have lower real estate values than neighborhoods of predominantly black residents in less segregated cities. Baltimore, Chicago, and New Orleans are the only metro areas to rank among the most segregated in the country where a smaller share of homes in predominantly black neighborhoods are worth less than $100,000 than the 51.5% national share.
In American public schools, segregation is tied to lower achievement. Nationwide, 82.1% of adults in majority-black neighborhoods have a high school diploma. Only two of America’s 16 most segregated metro areas have a greater high school attainment rate across majority-black neighborhoods than the U.S. as a whole.
To identify America’s most segregated cities, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the percentage of metropolitan area black residents who live in predominantly black census tracts — statistical subdivisions with an average of about 4,000 people. The greater the share of black metro residents living in the area’s racially homogenous neighborhoods, the greater the degree of segregation. We only considered census tracts with at least 500 residents. Population data are based on five-year estimates through 2016 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. For the purpose of this story, we only considered segregation of white and black populations.
We also reviewed median household income, poverty rates, educational attainment rates, unemployment rates, and homeownership rates among black and white populations in each metro area from the ACS. All data are five-year estimates.
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