27 September 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Mapping Juan Crow Cities

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Do you really live in a racially diverse city in the United States? New mapping using old data might make us re-think the relative segregation of our environment.

Maps don’t just reveal territorial boundaries and physical terrains. They can also be used as a device for capturing political stereotypes, and in the case of mapping segregation, revealing rampant residential segregation, especially amongst foreign-born populations settling in the United States.

Inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides, Eric Fisher has drawn similar maps of other cities with data obtained from the 2000 Census. More cities are charted here. Each dot represents 25 people with white people represented by a red dot, black people by a blue dot, Asians by green, and Hispanics by orange.

It looks like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco were some of the most diverse cities, but racial and ethnic minorities did cluster around the same neighborhoods, especially in Los Angeles and New York. The Los Angeles map also interestingly reveals that Hispanics live in the lowest income neighborhoods.

What does this macro-structural study of residential patterns tell us? Minorities are still substantially segregated in metropolitan cities. Census 2000 data shows that black-white segregation declined modestly on a national level while Hispanic and Asian segregation rose in most metropolitan areas. The increased inclination of Hispanic and Asian immigrants to coalesce around the same areas can be attributed to recent immigration, and maybe redlining or predatory lending. Due to relatively lower incomes of new immigrants, they are also more likely to live near work sites instead of commuting longer distances.

These racially segregated archipelagos pose a major problem for immigrant integration into mainstream society, if that is indeed, the desired result. But maybe this is not as gloomy as it looks. Immigrants clustering around their own communities can provide children and adults alike a sense of belonging and necessary empowerment to succeed in a new country. At the same time, it can also denote a community growing in relative isolation, lacking basic social services. Some have referred to parts of Los Angeles as an import of “Third World” ghettos, but that may just be the beauty of the United States.

It would be nice to compare this mapping with more recent data from the Census in 2010. More than 55 years after ending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and even with a black President and black Attorney General, are we still going to be display vast amount of residential segregation?

Photo Credit: Eric Fisher

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