Special Report

The Most Segregated Cities in America

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20. Columbia, SC
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 61.2% (166,972)
> Black population: 33.1% (273,020)
> Black poverty rate: 20.9% (55,237)
> White poverty rate: 10.7% (50,479)

While nationwide 19.5% of Black Americans live in predominantly Black neighborhoods, 61.2% of Black residents in Columbia, South Carolina, do. Socioeconomic racial inequalities are often made worse by segregation. An estimated 20.9% of the Columbia Black population live in poverty, more than twice the 10.7% area white poverty rate. Similarly, 8.1% of the labor force in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Columbia is unemployed, compared to the 5.0% unemployment rate in majority-white neighborhoods in the metro area.

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19. Lake Charles, LA
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 61.2% (30,764)
> Black population: 24.1% (50,246)
> Black poverty rate: 28.5% (13,962)
> White poverty rate: 12.7% (18,492)

Lake Charles is one of six metro areas in Louisiana to rank among the most segregated places in America. More than 60% of Black residents live in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and 94.1% of white residents live in predominantly white neighborhoods — each greater than the national shares of 19.5% and 93.5%, respectively.

Segregation can reduce access to education and employment opportunities for minorities and exacerbate racial disparities. In Lake Charles, the median income of white households is $26,146 greater than the median income for Black households, and Black residents are more than twice as likely as white residents to be unemployed. While 12.7% of white residents live in poverty, 28.5% of Black residents do — a larger poverty gap than across the nation as a whole.

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18. Mobile, AL
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 62.4% (94,349)
> Black population: 35.1% (151,080)
> Black poverty rate: 28.3% (42,039)
> White poverty rate: 13.0% (32,511)

Mobile, Alabama, is one of five metro areas at least partially in Alabama to rank among the most segregated cities in America. An estimated 62.4% of Black residents in the metro area live in predominantly Black census tracts, more than three times the 19.5% national figure.

Residents of poor, segregated minority neighborhoods often lack access to education and employment opportunities and face major economic disadvantages that can lead to high rates of poverty and unemployment. In Mobile, the poverty rate in majority-Black neighborhoods is 28.1%, nearly twice the poverty rate of 14.7% in primarily white neighborhoods.

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17. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 62.5% (99,152)
> Black population: 39.7% (158,575)
> Black poverty rate: 33.5% (52,136)
> White poverty rate: 12.8% (27,790)

In Shreveport, Louisiana, 62.5% of Black residents live in neighborhoods where at least half of residents are also Black, compared to 19.5% of Black Americans nationwide. Shreveport is a good example of how housing segregation often coincides with concentrated poverty and the socioeconomic outcomes associated with poverty, such as unemployment and low educational attainment. In Shreveport, 34.3% of people living in majority-Black neighborhoods earn poverty-level incomes, compared to just 13.9% of those living in primarily white neighborhoods. In majority Black neighborhoods, adults are less than half as likely to have a college education compared to those in white neighborhoods.

In the mid-20th century, highway and urban renewal projects were often constructed in poor, Black neighborhoods, displacing thousands of families and physically separating minority communities from the rest of the city. In Shreveport, plans are currently underway for a new 3.5-mile stretch of Interstate 49 that would run through the middle of the historically Black neighborhood of Allendale and require the demolition of homes built in the area.

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16. St. Louis, MO-IL
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 62.7% (318,709)
> Black population: 18.1% (508,558)
> Black poverty rate: 24.9% (123,718)
> White poverty rate: 7.8% (162,412)

An estimated 62.7% of Black residents in the St. Louis metro area live in census tracts where more than half of residents are also Black, more than three times the 19.5% national figure. Just 18.5% of adults in predominantly Black neighborhoods have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 37.2% of adults in primarily white neighborhoods. In addition, 25.1% of residents in Black neighborhoods live in poverty, nearly three times the 8.6% poverty rate in white neighborhoods.

Segregation in St. Louis is largely delineated by Delmar Boulevard, an east-west thoroughfare that divides the poor, predominantly Black neighborhoods in the north from the wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods in the south.