25 Most Segregated Cities in America

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More than 50 years after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion, segregation persists in some of America’s largest cities.

The patterns of segregation in many major metropolitan areas can be traced back to laws and housing policies of the early 20th century, when discriminatory zoning policies were legal and were used to exclude large portions of new black residents moving to cities in the Northeast and Midwest from the rural South. Even after the Supreme Court began to ban explicitly racist zoning policies in the mid-20th century, government officials excluded residents from certain neighborhoods on the basis of race through the federally-backed Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. 

The HOLC created “residential security” maps for major American cities for use by loan officers, appraisers, and real estate professionals that outlined neighborhoods according to investment risk, often redlining black neighborhoods as “hazardous” areas. According to the advocacy group National Community Reinvestment Coalition, 74% of the neighborhoods that the HOLC designated as high risk or “hazardous” are low-to-moderate income neighborhoods today, and 64% are minority neighborhoods.

Many of the most segregated cities experienced a period of economic decline starting in the 1960s as wealthy white families moved from inner cities to outlying suburbs, leaving behind the families without the resources to move with a shrunken tax base and declining infrastructure. In some of America’s fastest shrinking cities, the same patterns may be continuing today.

24/7 Wall St. calculated the percentage of black residents who live in predominantly black census tracts — where at least 50% of the population is black — to identify the most segregated cities in America.

Segregation often limits access to education and employment opportunities for residents of minority communities and contributes to racial disparities in urban areas. Nationwide, 16.8% of black Americans live in majority black neighborhoods. Adult residents of these neighborhoods are 2.2 times less likely to have a college education than residents of predominantly white neighborhoods, 3.1 times more likely to be unemployed, and 3.4 times more likely to live in poverty. Due in part to these disparities, some of the most segregated cities in America also rank among the worst cities for Black Americans.

A majority of the most segregated cities in America are located in the South and Midwest and have large black populations overall. Louisiana is home to five of the 25 most segregated cities, followed by Georgia with four, and Alabama and Michigan, each with three. In 24 of the 25 most segregated cities, African Americans constitute a larger portion of the population than the 12.7% national share.

Click here to see the 25 most segregate cities in America
Click here to read our methodology