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Census: Segregation hits 100-year lows in most American metro areas

New Census figures released Tuesday shows that 75 percent of US metro areas – most of them in the South and West – saw racial segregation drop to levels not seen for more than a century.

By Staff writer / December 14, 2010


A drive through Atlanta's older "intown" residential areas quickly bears out new Census findings: That segregation by race in the US is fading in many, though far from all, American neighborhoods.

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Atlanta is one of several predominantly Southern and Western cities that showed a noticeable integration trend over the last five years as both middle-class blacks and whites moved into each other's neighborhoods, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey of 10 million Americans, released Tuesday. The ACS is the largest demographic survey ever done in the United States.

The shift is part of a "complicated story with lots of nuances" that includes changes in social attitudes, the emergence of new housing and economic opportunity, and an age gap that shows young America is dramatically more diverse – and open to diversity – than older generations, says Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham.

"Whether you like it or not, [the new figures] show that change is coming," says Mr. Johnson.

Seventy-five percent of the largest 100 US metro areas showed neighborhood segregation rates slipping to levels not seen for more than a century. That's an important finding as race looks to figure in upcoming Congressional redistricting battles.

"Milwaukee, Detroit, and Syracuse, N.Y., were among the most segregated, all part of areas in the Northeast and Midwest known by some demographers as the 'ghetto belt,'" according to the Associated Press. "On the other end of the scale, cities that were least likely to be segregated included Fort Myers, Fla., Honolulu, Atlanta and Miami."


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