Segregation in the 21st Century

NYU’s Furman Center has posted a research brief, Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century. The brief is is based on a longer paper, Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century: What Does Segregation Mean Today? (One of the co-authors of the longer paper, Katherine M. O’Regan, is currently Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at HUD.) The brief opens,

In a recent study, NYU Furman Center researchers set out to describe current patterns of residential racial segregation in the United States and analyze their implications for racial and ethnic disparities in neighborhood environments. We show that 21st Century housing segregation patterns are not that different from those of the last century. Although segregation levels between blacks and whites have declined nationwide over the past several decades, they still remain quite high. Meanwhile, Hispanic and Asian segregation levels have remained relatively unchanged. Further, our findings show that the neighborhood environments of blacks and Hispanics remain very different from those of whites and these gaps are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas. Black and Hispanic households continue to live among more disadvantaged neighbors, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to more violent crime. (1)

And the brief concludes,

Black and Hispanics continued to live among more disadvantaged neighbors even after controlling for racial differences in poverty, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to higher levels of violent crime. Further, these differences are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas. Segregation in the 21st century, in other words, continues to result not only in separate but also in decidedly unequal communities. (5)

This conclusion makes clear that segregation is not merely the result of poverty. It is important to understand how segregation persists even though the legal support of segregation has been dismantled. Richard Brooks and Carol Rose’s work in this area is a good start for those who are interested.

FHA Whitewash, Redux

Richard Brooks and Carol Rose have recently published their book Saving the Neighborhood:  Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms.  This well-written book brings to mind my recent post on the FHA Whitewash which reviewed a recent paper by HUD-affiliated researchers.  The paper minimized the role that the FHA played in furthering housing discrimination.  I mentioned that Kenneth Jackson’s classic book, Crabgrass Frontier, documented this sorry chapter of the FHA’s history.  Saving The Neighborhood covers some of the same ground, but from a legal and legal history perspective.  By doing so, it adds depth and texture to the historic record.

The book makes clear just how much of a role the FHA played.  The FHA’s

Underwriting Manual reflected private developers’ and brokers’ views of the kinds of features that made housing values stable and secure. Those features clearly included racial segregation.  In a section on “Protection from Adverse influences,” the Manual stated bluntly that “[a] change in social or racial occupancy generally leads to instability and a reduction in values” (par. 233). Thus property evaluators were to investigate the surrounding areas for the presence of “incompatible racial and social groups” and to assess whether the location might be “invaded” (par. 233). The Manual specifically noted that deed restrictions on “racial occupancy” could create a “favorable condition” (par. 228). in the section on subdivisions that were still in the development stage, the Manual recommended deed restrictions that included, among other matters, “. . . (g) Prohibition of the occupancy of properties except by the race for which they are intended” (par. 284(3)). (109)

The authors argue that these preferences gave developers, even those who did not favor segregation, an incentive to employ racially restrictive covenants in their projects. (110)

The FHA’s record of racial discrimination during the first few decades of its existence is clear, for all to see.