Racial segregation in US cities

These maps are interesting:

Detroit was shown to have the most starkly segregated metropolitan area with a clear dividing line between black and white residents along 8 Mile Road, which runs across the northern edge of the city.

Mr Fischer, 37, started with Washington DC where the results showed a clear divide between predominantly white areas in the west, and black areas in the east.

The maps were created by Eric Fischer, a California computer programmer, using data from the 2000 Census of America.

He plotted one dot for each 25 people and gave colours according to how people were described in the census.

White people were represented by a red dot, black people by a blue dot, Asians by green, and Hispanics by orange.

But they\’re not really all that surprising.

The explanation (OK, a possible explanation but one which convinces me) is that such segregation will come about from only very small amounts of personal prejudice (no, not even prejudice as hatred for the other, can be just mild preference for the same) rather than requiring some overpowering institution or institutional racism.

Thomas Schelling:

In 1969, he published a widely cited article dealing with racial dynamics called \”Models of Segregation\”[7]. In this paper he showed that a small preference for one\’s neighbors to be of the same color could lead to total segregation. He used coins on graph paper to demonstrate his theory by placing pennies and nickels in different patterns on the \”board\” and then moving them one by one if they were in an \”unhappy\” situation. The positive feedback cycle of segregation – prejudice – in-group preference[clarification needed] can be found in most human populations, with great variation in what are regarded as meaningful differences – gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, religion, etc. Once a cycle of separation-prejudice-discrimination-separation has begun, it has a self-sustaining momentum.

The best description I\’ve read of this (ie, one that I can understand, without the maths) is in Paul Ormerod\’s \”Why Most Things Fail\” but then of course all of you have already read that, right?

4 thoughts on “Racial segregation in US cities”

  1. “…Washington DC where the results showed a clear divide between predominantly white areas in the west, and black areas in the east.”

    The quote reminds me of something I’ve wondered about before. In how many cities do we find the wealthier area on the west side and the poorer side on the east? And why?

    Tim adds: Prevailing winds. The rich want to live upwind of the smell of the slaughterhouses, the smoky industries and their own coal smoke.

  2. A larger number of cities here


    What I find interesting is that the Texan cities (Houston and San Antonia) are much less segregated than places like New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit. (What is possibly even more interesting is that the Daily Mail has published the maps that show this, and the Telegraph hasn’t). While there is something to be said to Schelling’s work, the result is not the same everywhere. Mixed neighborhoods persist in some places but not others.

    On the prevailing winds, the slaughterhouses, smoky industries, and coal smoke are not gone from the cities, and we are in some instances seeing a reversal of this long term effect. Gentrification of parts of East London, for instance.

  3. The racial divide along 8-Mile Road in Detroit actually has little to do with racial prejudice – as may be seen by the large concentrations of black residents well outside the city limits of Detroit, and the prevalence of mixed-race neighborhoods outside the city, especially to the North and West- Southfield, Troy, the Bloomfields, and so forth.

    The reason for the racial divide is that the city government of Detroit is such a complete disaster, on so many levels, that anyone who can move out of the city, has done so – black and white. The complete breakdown of normal services, the rampant corruption, the pitiful school system – all these failure combine to make Detroit a place that few people want to live in, unless they make their living from that corruption and ineffective government.

    In the case of Detroit, the map shopuld be seen, not so much as a map of race, as a map of class and income – anyone with the means to escape the city limits has already done so.



  4. I thought that all it showed is that people stick with like minded people. In other words their tribe. The tribe can be anything; racial, ecnomic, relgious, ancestry, background, sexual, etc

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