Why US Cities Are Segregated by Race: New Evidence on the Role of ‘White Flight’

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Yves here. Lambert points out that one of the vehicles (literally) for suburbanization and thus segregation was the establishment of trolley lines, and those were being built in major cities in the 1910s and 1920s.

By Allison Shertzer Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Pittsburgh and Randall Walsh, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh. Originally published at VoxEU

US cities became increasingly segregated by race over the 20th century. General consensus holds that most of this segregation was concentrated in the post-war period. This column uses neighbourhood-level data to find that racial segregation in cities began earlier; indeed, much of it had taken place by 1930. The column also examines the residential response of whites to black arrivals, suggesting that this contributed to segregation in addition to discrimination and institutional factors.

Over the 20th century, US cities became increasingly segregated by race. Existing scholarship on the role of ‘white flight’ has focused on post-war suburbanisation, for instance by documenting the importance of highways in enabling whites to leave central cities (Baum-Snow 2007). Furthermore, economists and sociologists have argued that whites left neighbourhoods in response to black arrivals in the post-war decades, generating the distinctive American urban pattern of blacks residing in the urban core with whites populating the suburban periphery (Massey and Denton 1993, Boustan 2010).

In new research, we argue that whites began resorting themselves away from black arrivals in the first decades of the 20th century, decades before the opening of the suburbs (Shertzer and Walsh 2016). Our analysis isolates the channel of white flight from institutional barriers that constrained where blacks could live in cities. We argue that accelerating white population departures in response to black arrivals at the neighbourhood level can explain up to 34% of the increase in segregation over the 1910s and 50% over the 1920s. Importantly, our analysis suggests that, while discriminatory institutions faced by blacks were clearly important, segregation may have emerged in US cities even in their absence simply as a consequence of market choices made by white families.

The early 20th century was crucially important for the establishment of racial residential segregation in the US. Figure 1 shows the trend in isolation and dissimilarity, two measures of segregation used in the social sciences, over the entire 20th century, for ten large cities. By either measure, segregation increased markedly between 1900 and 1970. However, fully 97% of the overall increase in dissimilarity had occurred by 1930, and 63% of the overall isolation had already taken place by the same year. We thus focus on the 1900 to 1930 period in our analysis.

Figure 1 Segregation trends in the largest ten US cities, 1890-2000

segregation chart

Notes: Data are taken from the dataset used in Cutler et al (1999) and show the average segregation indices across Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Manhattan, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. We employ their adjustment factor to make the ward-level indices from 1930 and before comparable to the 1940 and onward tract-level indices.

To undertake this study, we constructed finely detailed neighbourhood demographic data for the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Baltimore in the Northwest, and Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis in the Midwest, all of which saw significant influxes of black migrants from the South. While data at the level of the census tract is generally available for cities from 1940 onward, this dataset is the first to provide neighbourhood comparability at a fine unit of urban geography for earlier decades (see Shertzer et al. 2016).

The prevailing wisdom on the cause of the particularly rapid growth of black ghettos in the early 20th century is that white residents used collective action to prevent African Americans from freely settling across more northern cities. An initial wave of policies, most notably the Fair Housing Act, focused on dismantling these structural barriers that prevented blacks from locating in white neighbourhoods. The motivation behind these laws and rulings is consistent with the scholarly consensus that collective action by whites, including violence and intimidation, produced the American ghetto in the first half of the twentieth century (Massey and Denton 1993, Cutler et al. 1999).

More recent policies, such as state-level school finance equalisation schemes and federal community development block grants, have instead focused on funding disparities across jurisdictions arising from the departure of wealthier white residents from central cities. These policies address the fact that segregation – and inequality – can arise as a consequence of uncoordinated choices in the housing market. Our paper demonstrates the importance of these decentralised location decisions in generating urban segregation.

Our empirical approach aims to isolate the residential response of whites to black arrivals. In particular, we leverage exogenous changes in neighbourhood-level black populations generated by variation in out-migration rates of blacks from the South and the cross-neighbourhood location of early black arrivals in the spirit of the immigration shock literature (Altonji and Card 1991, Saiz and Wachter 2011). This strategy aims to isolate the impact of white flight from other neighbourhood-level factors that may have prompted whites to leave.

Our causal analysis confirms the existence and acceleration of white flight over the early 20th century. Our results indicate that one exogenous black arrival was associated with 1.9 white departures in the 1910s and 3.4 white departures during the 1920s. In contrast to studies on the post-war era, when whites were leaving central cities for better housing in the suburbs, we find that blacks and whites were both attracted to growing central city neighbourhoods during this time.

In the final portion of our analysis, we construct a series of counterfactual exercises aimed at understanding how much of the observed increase in segregation over the 1900-1930 period can be attributed to white flight from black arrivals. The most striking finding is the sharp increase in the contribution of flight in each subsequent decade. We estimate that flight was responsible for 34% of the increase in segregation (as measured by dissimilarity) over the 1910s, and 50% of the increase over the 1920s. The impact of flight in the latter decade is particularly important given that the 1920s saw the largest increase in segregation of any decade in the twentieth century.

Our finding, that sorting by whites out of neighbourhoods with growing black populations was a quantitatively important phenomenon, decades before the post-war opening of the suburbs, is novel. Furthermore, these results suggest that segregation may have arisen in US cities even in the absence of discrimination in the housing market, simply as a consequence of the widespread and decentralised relocation decisions of white individuals within an urban area.

These results do not mean that discriminatory institutions played no role in the construction of the US ghetto. For instance, barriers in housing markets no doubt increased the costs of settling in particular neighbourhoods, and were instrumental in determining the location of majority black areas. However, an important implication of our research is that policies that reduce barriers faced by blacks in the housing market may not prevent or reverse segregation as long as white households continue to resort themselves away from potential black neighbours.

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  1. norb

    A society and economic system based on competition fosters division and segregation. The incentives for survival in such a system promote various class divisions. Also, unchecked competition breeds corruption as cheating seems to lead to advantage if you can get away with it. Such an environment brings out the human herding mentality. Using the safety of numbers as protection against predators.

    White flight seems to be more about preserving economic standing than any conscious desire for racial purity.
    Exploiting race differences has always been an effective tool in achieving ones economic aims in systems based on conquest and violence. Poverty and inequality are the root causes of these divisions among the races of the working class. Fear of poverty is the engine that drives this endless cycle of settlement, environmental exhaustion, then decay.

    The real question should be why are we poor, and not why are we segregated.

    1. Larry

      Very much agree with this comment. Race was and is a clear indicator of class and how you know if you live in a good town in much of Massachusetts.

      1. James Levy

        I’m not sure about that. I can think of towns like Turner’s Falls and Greenfield that are very working class and very white. My own rural Hilltown area in Western Mass is largely a mix of working class and elderly poor residents and is predominantly white. So I think it’s a bit premature to join the Republicans in announcing that racism doesn’t exist any more and it’s all a matter of disliking and fearing poor people (who are portrayed as bad examples for your children and probably criminals to boot).

        1. Norb

          The problem is getting people to view current phenomenon as the result of certain historical cultural events. It is our history that matters and why so much effort is deployed to distort past events. It is not that racism doesn’t exist, it is the understanding of how racism is used to control social outcomes.

          The elite use racism as a tool to achieve their ends. While it is difficult to fully comprehend all the implications of that statement, I think most people would be totally shocked, in this day and age, if someone came out and expressly advocated racial cleansing – and carried it out. Events like that would surely drive people out of their stupors.

          As the economy becomes more dysfunctional, the old arguments used to support it will become less effective if not useless. Every generation needs to learn how to hate those who are different and the excuses used to explain poverty and the existence of gross inequality are just plain false.

          It will take a leadership dedicated to inclusion and cooperation. Sooner or later we all will be forced to face the fact that our current system doesn’t work. Either way, the truth will be out in the open.

          It is the choice between supporting brutality or not.

          1. Rootie Kazoodie

            It was simply good business, flipping property, as whites took out loans to buy along the streetcar lines, as Black folks were pretty much robbed blind back in the cities. For University of Pittsburgh researchers to “discover” this, more than a century later, since much of the local economy sort of revolved around selling electrical traction systems to other cities is kind of typical? Reading of the demise of Los Angeles’ rail system & Robert Moses’ use of lines to isolate non-white neighborhoods is only a small part of an interesting American tale?

            1. perpetualWAR

              Blacks were just robbed blind in this last financial crash. So we dont need to look at ancient history, rather just a few years. We fuck blacks all the time.

          2. Take the Fork

            Both of you are absolutely right. It is too soon to declare that racism doesn’t exist any more. And clearly the elite use it to achieve their own ends.

            But merely viewing this as a white/non-white situation obscures the complexities of this critical issue. In my view, this only furthers divisions and increases the racialization of or politics.

            We need to fund more research to answer some questions that would help up pinpoint the exact nature of the elite. We need to drill down into the data and answer some key questions. Such as: are there certain ethnic/religious groups more likely to use racism as a tool? For example, are Irish Catholics more likely than, say German Lutherans, to engage in this behavior in a place like Minneapolis? Where would the Batista-era Cubans of Miami fit in, as opposed to the Marielitos? And who is behind the gentrification ( some might say Ethnic Cleansing) of, say, Brooklyn?

            To establish that a certain ethnic or sectarian group is more likely to engage in this sort of behavior is, of course, no basis for action. Simply blaming whites for all the evils of this world will succeed only in putting Trump, or someone more extreme, in the White House. I think for that we need to actually name some names. But if we could establish that one sub-group or another behaves in such a brutal and exclusionary manner, perhaps the power of public shaming of specific individuals by members of their own community might discourage this behavior, if for no other reason than to avoid scapegoating of their entire community.

            1. ke

              There are white Germans who think they should rule the world, and white Germans who want nothing to do with them, with differentiation sexes, socio-economic position, religion, party affiliations, etc.

              The whole labelling thing is an externality most impose on each other and accept. The reptiles just feed on the devolving product.

              Complexity, energy diffusion on one side of an elevator, requires consideration, and coercion, subtle or not, doesn’t end well, because it sets up a positive feedback loop.

              The tribe gets incredibly upset with me. That’s life. This was America.

            2. tegnost

              I guess unfortunately i think that humans of all races are still humans, and our skin pigmentation just doesn’t change that, despotism is multi racial and crosses the gender barrier as well. Power relations count, and fearfulness, also. Trying to isolate a causal group is sectarianism itself, and public shaming is imo not a good policy choice. For instance we may have a “better” republican party were republicans not persistently attacked by the pc crowd, and Hillary could be the republican that she is shamelessly (not that she isn’t shameless in many other ways) and she wouldn’t have to say shame on you bernie supporters for supporting what we see as an acceptable form of democrat. And Trump has also resorted to the same thing in his speeches, finding some “other” to cast aspersions towards. None of that can have a positive impact on race relations or willingness to live or not live in certain places. I think it’s largely economic, and is an overarching proof of the difficulties faced by non-white races. Lest we forget, a significant number of non white races were brought here to make it easier for power focused whites to retain their fiscal advantages over others. As James implies, racism is alive and well.

              1. Take the Fork

                Not sure I follow: Does your logic mean that decades of shaming Germans for war crimes was bad policy? Does it make any talk of reparations for, say, slavery, bad policy?

                And lest we forget, the vast majority of whites have never had it very easy anywhere for very long either. To suggest otherwise is to fall into an ahistorical trap.

                1. tegnost

                  I don’t think we necessarily shamed he germans, we won the war, we had some trials and said ok it’s over let’s get back to business, and I see no connection between shaming and reparations. I would refer to the positions of power, which are held by and large by whites, c suite execs, politicians, bankers, billionaires etc…I am aware many whites struggle, I don’t see that as being the point here. There’s a reason they’re called the 1%, they have more than the other 99%, and they’re mostly white dudes. I still say shaming as a matter of policy is bad in my opinion. Maybe you should shame the 1%ers, but hmmm…how do you deal with shaming those who have no shame?

                  1. Take the Fork

                    Well you have a point about the shameless. But I would argue that some groups are far more susceptible to shaming and guilt than others. This is a tactic of contemporary liberalism, whether contemporary liberals understand it or not.

                    But even The 1%, or The .1% seems to me for these purposes meaningless.

                    We ought to name names, and then target them by whatever means achieves the desired objectives.

                    1. tegnost

                      Ok, who is going to choose who you want to shame, how are you going to shame them, and since we as a society are not monolithic and exist in some form of bicameral republic, does the other side from whatever side you’re on get to establish a shaming program as well? If it is as you say a tactic of contemporary liberalism you might question on that basis why it would work as contemporary liberalism hasn’t been all that successful. But your interesting point that conscience has a role is supported or at least expounded upon by lynn stout in 5/22/16 NC articles in some way, and through her linked text “Cultivating conscience: How good laws make good people”. I haven’t read it, but it does seem on topic here.

      2. Northeaster

        Weston & Dover are pretty much the epitome of “white flight”. There are exceptions like the MA commercial real estate mogul Gutierrez who lives in Weston, but he’s an extreme case.

  2. SteveB

    My brother moved to the country. It’s really nice, I’ll move too.. My BFF is coming… Then his sister and family…..

    You know sometimes things are not as complicated as we try to make them….

  3. PlutoniumKun

    I’m a little dubious about any study like this which doesn’t correct for class and income (perhaps it does, I don’t have time now to look at the original). Increasing mobility within cities almost always produces segregation along class and income lines as the better off try to separate themselves physically from the poor. The racial segregation noted may well be simply a reflection of racial minorities being poorer, and that people see colour as one (of many) ‘markers’ that a neighbourhood is going uphill or downhill.

    1. Art Eclectic

      I agree, class and culture are really what drives people to form tribes. I’m sure there are a few places where this isn’t true, but black middle class families are mostly welcome as long as they fit into cultural norms. Same with Hispanic.

      Where you see the divergence is in behaviors associated with poverty. Poorly maintained vehicles, poorly maintained housing, loud music, domestic shouting matches and violence, friends who behave poorly when they’re in the neighborhood.

      I think way too many people glide past the culture problem and go right to skin color or ethnicity. It’s ultimately about behavior. I’m not interested in living next to people who can’t “behave” in a middle class social order – I don’t care what their skin color or ethnicity is. I don’t want to live next to a junk yard with people screaming at each other and blasting music.

      1. ke

        The tribe. Economic mobility isn’t free.

        Poverty is a function of conditioning.

        Funny, the middle class processing the so impoverished don’t want to live next door to their work. Without proper nutrition, people behave poorly. Surprise.

        1. ke

          To be generous, I don’t think the participants in the American middle class, bred on debt, fully comprehend their role in producing poverty globally.

          Can’t you just see an Italian kid demanding an iPhone and Nike tennis shoes.

          Funny, they are paying a social worker to raise Grace, she’s collecting on 5 government checks, and never had her own kids. Helping. The goal in America is to collect many corporate welfare checks as possible. Use debt as money, and your prize is debt as money. Helicopter money would be far more effective if you just automatically sent the checks and eliminated all the people serving their own interests in the growing supply chain.

      2. Romancing the Loan

        You just have to live in a place where the houses are so large you can’t hear the screaming.

        /since when is “poorly maintained vehicles” a culture

  4. Rootie Kazoodie

    Having grown up in an ethnic white trash “streetcar suburb” of 1950’s Pittsburgh (where an adjoining Black majority community was marginally more affluent, due largely to rail unions), we always thought the post-war Levitown meme was just plain silly. Westinghouse was clearly able to market systems to electrical utilities, with this vision of metastatic growth, as immigrants & Jim Crow refugees jammed into the mill valleys, chasing us cold-ass honkeys ever farther up the creeks. Land speculation, red- lining, school (job) segregation, “law enforcement” basically the whole conga-line of development. Just look along Philadelphia’s (PRR) Mainline for a linear example of white flight, generations ahead of the Interstates or malls. This one was coal powered, based on steel production. Probably began the anthropomorphic global warming Eisenhower’s oil & concrete suburbs simply took over the top?

  5. divadab

    It’s tribal. Really fucking simple. All the pearl clutching and gnashing of teeth will never change a basic human law – people want their kids to grow up with kids from the same tribe.

    “Only two things unite humans – fear and interest.” If our political class truly wanted to unite us and not rule through propaganda-enforced division, they would unite on dealing with climate change. It has to happen soon, anyway, as the rolling crisis gets more extreme and sea levels rise to the point even the most brainwashed dull-normal gets it.

    Only Sanders is even talking about climate change as the official Party candidates rearrange the deckchairs and throw shit at each other. WHile their oligarch sponsors grab grab grab all they can before the energy feast party ends. Enjoy the luxury of a peaceful prosperous world while it lasts. The four horsemen are saddled up.

    1. Steve

      I believe you are very correct. In times of stress things move to the lowest common denominator very quickly. Chris Hedges has written about this often. Things are going to get very bad at a rapidly increasing pace. I think the elite have known this for quite some time and they have a plan that we are not part of :(

      1. divadab

        Make your own plan. Work the Plan. Make your network diverse and strong. Know your neighbors. Have a gun or two. Grow your own cawn.

        Seriously – hipsters won;t last but flipping rednecks will.

      2. jgordon

        They have their plan alright. And it’ll last right up until their security guards shoot them and take their stuff. The problem with elites thinking that they’re going to escape the depredations of the commoners by escaping to their elite enclaves is that it’s not going to happen.

        1. divadab

          You’re thinking is too manichaean – it’s not that the current order becomes mad max chaos – the current order will be threatened by crisis and then totalitarian rule will be imposed. The rich still pretty comfortable and the proles increasingly desperate. It’s happening already.

  6. TarheelDem

    No mention of the post-World-War I pogroms (er, “race riots”). Selective time framing?

    Or the economic incentives of block-busting into a two-tier (or more) “exclusive” system.

    Or the use of segregation into ghettos to hide businesses to hide operations that they did not want other whites (and especially their wives) to see because of “respectability”. All sorts of black market businesses but most especially prostitution.

    There are powerful economic incentives to dodge desegregation.

  7. Rfa

    Why is gentrification bad? It’s the opposite of flight I think.

    Why would a neighborhood segregated by flight be a ghetto?

    This article is right on sad reality.

  8. ke

    Form requires only a slight disturbance to establish itself. The division part is natural. What is not natural is using debt as a weapon, but it does work as a means of encouraging people to conquer themselves and each other, for a period of time, until it doesn’t. Simulated intelligence rules peer pressure groups with convenient false assumptions. Why would you work when you can get others to do it for you, simply by spinning a narrative. Every special interest group has a huckster, and the hucksters conspire to exploit each other’s groups, to maintain and grow the system, with rights granted by artificial competition. It’s called politics.

    Why would you listen to critters giving you a choice between debt MAD and nuclear MAD.

  9. lyle

    Actually suburbinization really started with the development of the electric street car systems. Back then a developer would find out where a line was going and buy property around the end of the the line for homes. The electric streetcar was in place by 1900 in many areas, and made getting to where one worked much easier as it traveled much faster than horsecars. In Fort Wayne In, you can see this with some areas now preserved as historic districts build around the turn of the century (South Wayne for example), which was around the end of the streetcar line. Reading a history of Chicago one sees the same process at work.

  10. Left in Wisconsin

    I don’t understand this post. Are they trying to argue that the conventional understanding is that residential segregation is a post-WW2 phenomenon, and that their novel finding is that white flight actually preceded the racist post-WW2 housing policies? Color me stunned (not).

    It would seem pretty apparent to a normal person that the racist Post-WW2 housing policies were an outcome of racism, not a cause. Speaking for Albany, NY, Detroit, and Chicago, racial segregation in all three was hardly a function of post-WW2 white flight. It’s as if the authors had never heard of the term, “Black Belt.” I think the point of emphasizing post-WW2 housing policy is to demonstrate that racist housing policies continued after WW2, not that they began then.

    As Jack White says, “You can’t take the effect and make it the cause.”

  11. tommy strange

    Interesting good stuff. But the definitive book is Crabgrass Frontier. Details how so much white flight was completely subsidized and enforced by fed government from FDR to late 60’s. And by every Dem political machine in every city in the north. Follow up with Surgee’s Detroit book, and Family Properties about Chicago. Gentrification and segregation not only has huge racist and FIRE sector components, it is always mandated by our politicians, and lack of funding for affordable housing and lack of real planning by state and fed government.

  12. Felix_47

    I read somewhere that being black is worth 10 or 20,000 per year in earnings when one takes into consideration hiring preferences. Where I work, which is for the government, blacks and whites have equal earnings and equal potential for promotion. Given economic equality it is remarkable how many interracial marriages take place. On the margins perhaps skin color might affect marriage choices……but ultimately it is money that really determines marriage choices….. Some economist could perhaps research that and come up with a dollar amount that would cause the average man/woman to choose a black/white man/woman. Where I work it is more common, and I would estimate it is as high as 30% of all marriages, for black men to be with white women but the reverse is also not unusual and, in fact, quite common when the black female is highly ranked and paid. So racial discrimination will never be eliminated until the entire society intermarries……it is pretty hard to be racist when ones grandchild is black or green….but it seems to me that the only route to racial equality is economic equality. Of course if we celebrate diversity one wonders what we will have to celebrate if everyone looks the same. Somehow the celebrations of diversity seem cognitively dissonant. We want to eliminate diversity and build a homogeneous society that offers equal opportunity for all. If we want diversity we should be opposed to immigration, intermarriage, economic equality and separation of church and state.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “being black is worth 10 or 20,000 per year in earnings when one takes into consideration hiring preferences.”

      I’d very much like a link on that because I doubt that it’s true.

      1. Rootie Kazoodie

        One thing NOT mentioned in the research was how the numerous private, public & employee owned streetcar companies secured rights-of-way from municipalities, their interplay with developers and speculation as burnt-out farmland & strip-mines sprouted segregated communities, along trolley lines. God KNOWS, minorities weren’t invited to play along; as motormen, contractors or home- owners. Unlike trolley-busses & motor coaches, subways, interurbans & streetcar tracks were pretty much permanent. Once the communities built around them changed… there went the speculative feeding frenzy, all over again, with big profits for almost all involved (Lorraine Hansberry comes to mind?) In Pittsburgh, a Black community was razed for an Ice Hockey stadium, refugee families divvied-up onto hilltop projects (by a Democratic boss, natch). America weren’t so GREAT, huh? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_transit_strike_of_1944#Military_takeover_of_the_PTC

      2. Felix_47

        When you consider the overall job market in the US you are right and I mis wrote and I certainly did not mean that in terms of the overall economy. Private employers are going to avoid US minorities and just go with recent immigrants legal and illegal. There is much written about the fact that private employers do not want natives or “domestics” because they demand their rights and talk back and want to be paid. There was a New York Times article on it last year. I misspoke and I apologize for my narrow view based on where I work. I work for the Federal Government and these jobs are well paid far beyond what the private sector offers for comparable work, very hard to get unless one has a special status as a minority or disabled veteran, and in great demand. Subsidiary work in the defense industry by government contractors often has the same hiring preferences. In those cases one can see that the benefit of minority status is substantial because if one is not a minority or a disabled vet these jobs are not going to be open at all and the pay differential is easily worth more than 10K-20k per year. Consider pay and benefits for a nurses aide (male or female) in the VA vs.a nurses aide in a private hospital or nursing home. Consider the difference between an electronics technician working for Lockheed Martin on a defense project (subject to Federal hiring preferences) and one working for a computer repair shop in your home town. From my perspective I don’t see much well paying work in the private sector outside of the FIRE sector (and it depends on who you know not what you know), law (rent seeking and based on controlling the legal system for lawyers benefit with worker’s comp and personal injury and malpractice, divorce, finance etc.) and medical care (limited to RNs, MDs, and hospital administrators and executives since the remainder are poorly paid), and a few other licensed (rent seeking, exclusionary) occupations. And what galls me is that all the billions poured into these parts of the “private sector” come from the government so it seems rent seeking is the only real private occupation in the US at this point. I tell my kids they need to get a government job or a rent seeking job. There is little else for a US born child white or black who wants even a lower middle class existence. And so in the private sector, absent trying to fill affirmative action slots (government), minority status is far from a financial advantage. My comment was quite jobcentric (government worker) and I am sorry.

  13. jgordon

    Just some quick anecdotes:

    When I lived in a trailer park, most (about 60%) of the people were white, however there where quite a few blacks and puerto ricans who eventually started moving in. The minority people were relatively well adjusted by and large from my experience, however the white people, especially the younger whites, were mostly thieving drug addicts. I think integration actually brought up the quality of the neighborhood there, though in honestly the various racial groups didn’t interact a whole lot despite living close to each other.

    When I was in the Marines I worked in an avionics shop. It was all white. We finally had one black person join the shop and we tried inviting him to our after-work social events (mostly playing video MMO or RTS games at LAN parties when that was a thing), but he wasn’t interested. Instead, he would always go over to motor-t and hang out with all the black people who worked there. One time he had close to a thousand dollars in his pocket and he passed out drunk at one of their drinking parties–and someone stole it. He got angry when we pointed out that we’d never steal from him and that he should hang out with us instead. Well–he just kept going over there and he’d only ever talk to us at work.

    About segregation? There are probably more factors going into this than anyone can count or imagine, but I’m sure it could go either way depending on conditions and that when it does or doesn’t happen everyone, minorities and non-minorities, has some role in the process. I think it’s a lot more complicated to sort out who is “guilty” and who is in the right here. It could be that it’s just a natural and useful survival instinct for people to be clannish and insular, and that trying to fight against this instinct in the long term is dangerous, or at least useless.

    1. av av

      Try the shoe on the other foot, if you as a white joined the shop with all black co-workers and they tried inviting you to their after-work social events, would you go?

      1. Norb

        Differences in cultural preferences and habit need to be protected. It is the same idea as practicing religious freedom. Separation of groups in itself is not a problem, it is when these groups position themselves to gain advantage over another that matters.

        Is this notion idealistic? Maybe so, but a healthy society must be based on founding principles that survive conflict and hardship.

  14. ke

    My wife chose to live here because this place can withstand whatever depression the bankers choose to impose. She is also a late riser, missing the competition feeding frenzy. Those two factors eliminate 99% of her opportunities, which is fine, if what remains is the opportunity you want. Choices have trade offs.

    She likes working as a vet tech but vet medicine is now a function of Big Debt, like most everything else in America, so the vets hire ignorant young females to entertain the clients, who are being farmed for more debt issuance, in a vicious circle. From my perspective, the American middle class is the most impoverished class order on the planet, and I don’t want to live anywhere near the implosion.

    I mean really, not smart enough to move away from methane gas, but able to converse to no end about some artificial expert system?

    My mom was the type to put plastic over the furniture, and then she became a boxer/feinstein robot. Maybe Freud was right after all. /s

    1. ke

      The only thing keeping the Statee Occupiers here at bay is finding one of their own in the river on occasion. The private corporations have been walking away from pensions for decades, and we are approaching large scale public pension collapse, hence the sudden flurry of new theories, which, as you can see, changes nothing.

  15. patrick

    Ramblings….My profile is ‘white, male, 62 yrs.,grey hair, brown eyes, 6 ft. 0in., 190 lbs.’ In my opinion you can stick your ‘race’ where the sun doesn’t shine. Any ‘white’ person who moves away because ‘black’ people are coming NEEDS to go. Good riddance. As a ‘white’ kid my childhood was rare for the following reasons; My parents never said anything negative about another person based on ANYTHING other than that persons words and actions. They treated everyone the same. We lived in the projects, AKA a ‘black neighborhood’ (There was only one ‘black’ neighborhood here in Seattle that wasn’t the projects) My cub scout leader was a Japanese American (most likely interned as a kid). Our mailman was a Chinese American, my neighbors were from Texas, Louisiana, Tennesee, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, S. Carolina, etc. A few of my friends older siblings were members of the second Black Panther Party chapter in the country. (One block from my house I would wait outside the Panther breakfast program for my friends to finish because I already had breakfast.) Our boy scout troop was a rag tag regular rainbow coalition that got stared at as soon as we traveled a few miles from our neighborhood. At one time our Boy Scout troop leader was a ex-Biker grease monkey. Anyway, my life has taught me among other things that most people when challenged will do the right thing and not to trust anyone until you know them well enough. Also, anyone who doesn’t put their humanity above their “race’ or gender identity has a long way to go. I’ve been a feminist since I learned the meaning of the word and I learned early in life I was lucky (not blessed!) to be ‘white’, male and American. I’m with the young people! Feel the Bern!

  16. Dave

    If white flight is bad, then gentrification by whites is good. Or are the sociologists trying to have it both ways?

    “Celebrate diversity in the central cities.”

    1. financial matters

      A typical gentrification project turns a neighborhood into high cost housing and thus excludes most of the people who actually work there.

      These problems are confounded by how the quality of K-12 education is affected by funding from property taxes. The gentrified areas are able to afford better schooling and the poorer people are pushed out into areas with meager resources for public schooling.

      Other resources such as fire and police protection are similarly degraded such as the time it takes to respond to a 911 call in different areas. (And this is before even getting into discussions of the high minority/poor prison population and how this benefits our increasingly private prison complex).

  17. Pablo

    “Furthermore, these results suggest that segregation may have arisen in US cities even in the absence of discrimination in the housing market, simply as a consequence of the widespread and decentralised relocation decisions of white individuals within an urban area.”

    I am sure that was part of it, but to apparently assume an “absence of discrimination” in the housing market, seems a bit optimistic. Now, I fully admit I don’t live in the US, and never have (not even sure I’d want to, considering what a saw the past few years…).

    That being said, there was a long (very long) PBS documentary on the History of New York, (by Ric Burns, I think, 8 or 10 hours long, from the purchase of the island from the Dutch, to 2001), that was very well documented, specially for the crucial period between the start of WW2 and the 60’s. And it clearly seemed to indicated (quite convincingly) there was clear segregation in housing. Not maybe in the housing market itself (understood as a seller directly refusing a buyer), but through banks and access to credit : if one could not get the needed credit with the bank, he was forced to another neighborhood, maybe without even having to face the segregationist feeling of the seller…, And it felt like a very concerted effort on the banks and maybe even city planners. This was reinforced with the construction of the “projects”, and, as is said here, facilitated by the cars and highways.
    It is worth watching, I think the structural evolutions would apply to most big american cities.

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