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Residential Income Segregation Rising in U.S.


Residential segregation by income throughout the United States has increased in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas during the past three decades according to a report recently released by the Pew Research Center.

Nationwide, 28% of lower-income households were in majority lower-income census tracts in 2010, up 5% from 23% in 1980 and 18% of upper-income households were in majority upper-income census tracts, up 9% from 1980. These numbers are indicative of the nationwide rise in income inequality that has resulted in a decrease in the number of neighborhoods that are predominately middle class or mixed income, it was 85% in 1980, but was 76% in 2010.

The Pew Research Center created a Residential Income Segregation Index (RISI) to rank the metropolitan areas by adding together the share of lower-income households living in a majority lower-income tract and the share of upper-income households living in a majority upper-income tract. The maximum possible RISI score is 200. In such a metropolitan area, 100% of lower-income and 100% of upper-income households would be situated in a census tract where a majority of households were in their same income bracket.

This analysis produced 2 significant patterns:

  1. Most of the metropolitan areas with the largest increases of RISI scores over 30 decades were also able to pin point in-migration as a major contributing factor of population growth. Some of these places, such as Houston and Miami, experienced an influx of low skilled, low wage immigrants in addition to an influx of high-skilled, high-wage workers, which may contribute to the income segregation.
  2. While some regions have experienced more income segregation growth than others, all regions have experienced an increase. The Southwest average RISI scored increased from 35 in 1980 to 57 in 2010. The Northeast average increased from 40 in 1980 to 48 in 2010. The Midwest average increased from 34 to 44. The West average increased from 31 to 38 and the Southeast average increased from 28 to 35.

Click here for the full report. 
Interactive maps
of segregation in the top 10 metropolitan areas.


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