How self-segregation and concentrated affluence became normal in America
Racially concentrated areas of affluence, by the researchers’ definition, are census tracts where 90 percent or more of the population is white and the median income is at least four times the federal poverty level, adjusted for the cost of living in each city. Racially concentrated areas of poverty, by contrast, are census tracts where more than 50 percent of the population is non-white, and more than 40 percent live in poverty.
Detroit has 55 racially concentrated areas of affluence and 147 racially concentrated areas of poverty, according to the research, done by Ed Goetz, Tony Damiano, and Jason Hicks. Detroit’s racially concentrated areas of affluence are just 1.1 percent black. Its racially concentrated areas of poverty, by contrast, are 76 percent black.
Cities such as St. Louis, Boston, Baltimore, and Minneapolis have more racially concentrated areas of affluence (RCAAs) than they do racially concentrated areas of poverty (RCAPs). Boston has the most RCAAs of the cities they examined, with 77. St. Louis has 44 RCAAs, and 36 RCAPs. Other cities with a large number of racially concentrated areas of affluence include Philadelphia, with 70, Chicago, with 58, and Minneapolis, with 56.
There is less self-segregation of metro areas in the West: San Francisco and Houston have just five racially concentrated areas of affluence each, Seattle has nine, Los Angeles, 11. Seattle has just six racially concentrated areas of poverty and San Francisco has 12. These western cities have larger populations of affluent minorities, and are, in general, more diverse. Only 1.1 percent of affluent households live in RCAAs in San Francisco and only 3.1 percent do in Seattle, but in St. Louis, by contrast, 23.1 percent of affluent households live in a racially concentrated area of affluence. In cities in the North and East, there are also still lingering effects of the housing policies that, for decades, kept non-white families from buying in certain neighborhoods.
The racial makeup of concentrated areas of poverty differs between regions, too: they’re predominantly black in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Washington, predominantly Latino in Houston and Los Angeles, and mixed in Boston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.
Some of their further research has already generated interesting results. They looked into how federal housing dollars are spent in areas of poverty and areas of affluence in the Twin Cities, and found something surprising: The government spends just as many housing dollars in areas of poverty as it does in areas of affluence.
In racially concentrated areas of affluence, federal dollars come in the form of the mortgage-interest deduction. In areas of poverty, they come through vouchers and subsidized housing units. In the Twin Cities, the total federal investment in the form of housing dollars in RCAAs was three times larger than the investment in RCAPs. On a per capita basis, it was about equal.