The Fragmented Evolution of Racial Integration since the Civil Rights Movement

Michael D.M. Bader, Siri Warkentien

Sociological Science, March 2, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a8


We argue that existing studies underestimate the degree to which racial change leads to residential segregation in post-Civil Rights American neighborhoods. This is because previous studies only measure the presence of racial groups in neighborhoods, not the degree of integration among those groups. As a result, those studies do not detect gradual racial succession that ends in racially segregated neighborhoods. We demonstrate how a new approach based on growth mixture models can be used to identify patterns of racial change that distinguish between durable integration and gradual racial succession. We use this approach to identify common trajectories of neighborhood racial change among blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians from 1970 to 2010 in the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston metropolitan areas. We show that many nominally integrated neighborhoods have experienced gradual succession. For blacks, this succession has caused the gradual concentric diffusion of the ghetto; in contrast, Latino and Asian growth has dispersed throughout both cities and suburbs in the metropolitan areas. Durable integration has come about largely in the suburbs.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Michael D.M. Bader: Department of Sociology, American University  Email:

Siri Warkentien: Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

  • Citation: Bader, Michael D. M., and Siri Warkentien. 2016. “The Fragmented Evolution of Racial Integration since the Civil Rights Movement.” Sociological Science 3: 135-166.
  • Received: February 13, 2015.
  • Accepted: May 31, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a8

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2 Reactions to The Fragmented Evolution of Racial Integration since the Civil Rights Movement

  1. George Kent March 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    Yes, in some U.S. cities, ethnic diversity in some neighborhoods is declining over time. This would be alarming if it was about low-income people being steadily forced into sub-standard ghettoes. But there are other possibilities. To some extent, it may be that people prefer to live with people like themselves. Is there anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with Russians choosing to live near other Russians, or Latinos living near other Latinos? Maybe accepting ethnic neighborhoods and race based enclaves would be a good thing, giving people more choices about how to llve?

    The Supreme Court’s famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 was based on the premise that it is not possible for blacks and whites to be separate but equal, and thus integration was necessary, even if it had to be forced. The historical reality is that this pressured blacks to act more white, without calling on whites to act more black. Integration has been resisted in many ways by people in both groups.

    That insistence on integration and full diversity in every community should be re-examined. A better guideline would be that people should have alternatives, and be free to choose the type of community in which they live.

    In the Middle East, there is clearly no hope for a fully integrated Israel. The two-state idea, one for Jews and another for Palestinians, is more attractive. Similarly, it would be foolish to insist on integrating Shiites and Sunnis. Sometimes it does make sense to pursue the idea of separate but equal, where people in the separate groups all feel they are being treated fairly and not being exploited. If everyone is happy in their own communities, they won’t be motivated to cross the boundaries to kill the others.

    There may be reasons for being “troubled by the growing number of single-minority segregated neighborhoods (Bader and Warkentien 2016, 135),” if they are extremely poor or have some other problems. The simple fact of being a single-minority neighborhood should not in itself be viewed as troublesome.

    Why characterize “durably segregated black neighborhoods” simply as products of pre-Civil Rights apartheid (Bader and Warkentien 2016, 136), and not consider that some black people might like to live together with black people?

    Supposedly, “The ideal type of integration occurs when neighborhoods become a microcosm of the metropolitan population (Bader and Warkentien 2016, 139).” Why is this ideal? Why should every neighborhood look the same, offering no distinct choices of cultures and lifestyles? Any sort of uniformity is going to be oppressive to many people who would like to have other choices available to them.

    Yes, there is a need to worry about the possible dominance of one group over the other. That problem is not solved by undermining the identity of the weaker group by forcing it into the dominant group in ways that make both unhappy. There is risk in being vulnerable to domination by others. Living separately from groups different from your own is not inherently bad or wrong. People should have options about where and how they live.

  2. Steve Broache March 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    Numbers = power. That is the assumption underlying the desire by some for “Chocolate Cities” where African American population iso a high percentage, allowing domination of elections and the resulting choice of government staff. In cities like my own Baltimore, the population trend is decidedly downward in numbers of almost any ethnic group, with the once dominant white population down to about1/3 of the total, and a great number of poor African American families left behind as their more prosperous citizens vote with their feet and follow the path once followed by the white flight trend. With the loss of middle income population, the City is no longer attractive to the basic retail amenities expected of a city. The number of houses left behind as the middle class of all demographics flees the City reinforces to all that people don’t want to live here, despite the potential political power they might control. The surrounding jurisdictions have been vigilant in steering the overflow of African Americans to unwritten areas designated for non-whites. The biggest growth factor for the City’s population is the influx of a previously minuscule Hispanic population. That’s good for ethnic shopping, but that population has been able to take advantage of an otherwise undesirable (i.e. cheap) housing stock.

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