Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Visualizing City Segregation

Yesterday, I wrote about the relatively low levels of residential segregation in Nashville compared to New York and Chicago. Thinking about the post later on, I remembered Eric Fischer's stunning maps of census data showing the geographic distribution of racial groups in major American cities. In these maps, each dot represents 25 people. Red dots are white people; blue dots are black people; orange dots are Hispanic people. The data are from the 2000 census.

New York



The larger cities' higher population densities make the patterns of residential segregation amazingly sharp. In the NYC map, for example, the demarcation between where the white people live and where the black people live just north of Central Park in Manhattan (the random white rectangle) is amazingly clean. Chicago's map shows a reasonable amount of residential overlap between whites and Hispanics, but whites and blacks (and blacks and Latinos, for that matter) remain almost completely residentially segregated.

Nashville is hardly a picture of racial integration, but it shows substantially more overlap in the areas in which its black and white residents live than either New York or Chicago. Bordeaux and the Metro Center area of North Nashville remain almost exclusively black, but East Nashville and Inglewood are much more integrated. South Nashville, out toward Antioch and Tusculum, are pretty highly integrated.

The level of integration evident in these maps is not an illusion created by the relative densities of these cities either. These maps are based on the same data as the measures of residential segregation I reported yesterday. Almost a third of Nashville's residents live on a black-white integrated block. Only about 5% of Chicago or New York's residents live on integrated blocks.

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