PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — When data from the nation’s 2020 census were released this summer, many asked John Logan: Is the country’s segregation problem improving? His answer: It’s complicated.
In a preliminary report that followed the release of the census data, Logan — a professor of sociology at Brown University who has spent more than five decades studying U.S. census data — showed that some racial inequalities appear to be slowly changing for the better, while others remain seemingly intractable. And ongoing analysis by Logan and Florida State University sociologist Brian J. Stults is uncovering new insights about these patterns of inequality, which the researchers hope to share in peer-reviewed journals in the years to come.
On one hand, Logan and Stults’ analysis found, U.S. residents who identify as Black or African American are slowly becoming less segregated from white Americans in terms of where they live. On the other, most Black residents — along with much of the country’s rapidly growing Asian and Hispanic populations — are still finding it difficult to live in predominantly white, wealthier neighborhoods. That means the majority of people of color continue to live in neighborhoods with lower-performing schools and more crime than their white peers, regardless of their household income.
“I was glad to see the continuation of a slow reduction from very, very high levels of African-American segregation in the 1960s,” Logan said of the 2020 census results. “But the main thing I saw was a continuation of Asian and Hispanic Americans growing very quickly but not becoming any less segregated from whites. It raises the question of whether the social boundaries between white Americans and Americans of color will ever diminish.”
Logan noted that in the last decade, self-identified Hispanic, Latino and Spanish populations increased by 23% in the U.S., and the self-identified Asian population jumped by 35% — huge increases compared to the modest 5.6% increase in the Black population and the 2.6% decrease in the white population. But just because those populations grew doesn’t mean community members integrated into neighborhoods with predominantly white populations. Instead, Logan said, ethnic enclaves in metropolitan areas simply grew.
According to Logan, the census data, combined with other residential, poverty and school data collected between 2015 and 2019, provide evidence that race — not income — is the driving factor behind who lives where in the U.S.