The Rise of Residential Segregation



October 2, 2012


The “people like us” mentality seems to have spurred a rise in residential segregation based on income over the past three decades. The Pew Research Centre reports that,

28% of lower-income households in 2010 were located in a majority lower-income tract, up from 23% in 1980, and that 18% of upper-income households were located in a majority upper-income census tract, up from 9% in 1980.

From these finding it can be inferred that the income gap is greater today than possibly even during the colonial era. Paul Taylor of the PEW Research Centre shares some stats from the Residential Income Segregation Index:

 Among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas, Houston (61) and Dallas (60) have the highest RISI scores, followed closely by New York (57). At the other end of the scale, Boston (36), Chicago (41) and Atlanta (41) have the lowest RISI scores among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas.

These findings are troubling as they result in an increasingly polarized electorate.  According to Taylor, "We are in a political moment where the sense of the middle, the sense of the cohesion, isn't feeling particularly robust," he says. "One outcome of that is a sense that the political process is ossified ... [and] that Washington doesn't work."

Income segregation can be attributed to persistent in-migration and current housing and zoning laws. It is likely that this trend will continue.  In Canada increasing family income has led to the rise of neighborhood inequality.  Canadian Labor Market and Skills Researcher Network reported that neighborhood income inequality has grown by 10% in Ottawa, 12% in Quebec, 22% in Montreal, 36% Vancouver, and 81% in Calgary.

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