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Racially Concentrated Areas of Affluence: A Preliminary Investigation - DRAFT REPORT

Author: 
Goetz, Edward G., Tony Damiano, and Jason Hicks

Racial segregation continues to be a significant problem in American cities despite passage of the Fair Housing Act 46 years ago. Since the 1980s, concentrations of poverty have combined with racial segregation to produce conditions that have been the target of urban and housing policy for 25 years. Recent federal housing policy has consciously acknowledged this phenomenon, with the federal government requiring local municipalities to undertake studies of “Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty” (RCAPs) in order to inform local efforts to further fair housing goals. The orientation of much recent housing policy, in fact, has been to deconcentrate the poor, either by facilitating or forcing their movement out of the neighborhoods in which they predominate, or by redevelopment schemes that break up the ghetto and redevelop to introduce more upscale housing and higher income residents. This strategy has been accompanied by countless studies by academics of the dynamics of high-poverty, segregated neighborhoods, and the prospects for their improvement. The media, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, produced a steady stream of sensationalized reporting on the pathologies of these neighborhoods, fueling both academic attention and a policy focus (Macek 2006).

Curiously, though the poor, non-white community has been thoroughly problematized and held up as the most recognizable example of racial and income segregation in the U.S., there has been comparatively little attention given to the other side of the segregation dynamic – the affluent, white community. Racially Concentrated Areas of Affluence (RCAAs) are not currently referenced in federal housing policy, nor have they been scrutinized to the extent that RCAPs have. Yet, patterns of segregation in the U.S. show that of all racial groups, whites are the most severely segregated (Feagin 2014). The average white household lives in a much less diverse neighborhood than the average member of any other racial group in the nation. Yet we know very little about these places or about the phenomenon more generally.

In this paper we examine the phenomenon of concentrated areas of white affluence. We offer an operational definition of RCAA and present a preliminary data reconnaissance of the phenomenon in 15 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Our purpose is to shed light on the ‘other extreme’ of residential segregation in American urban areas. In this research we conceptualize neighborhoods as occupying points in a two-by-two field defined by race and Affluence. In Figure 1 below, the vertical axis is defined by the racial makeup of neighborhoods, from completely non-white to completely white. The horizontal axis is defined by income/wealth from least to most affluent. RCAPs occupy the lower left extreme of the plot while RCAAs are the neighborhoods in the upper right. Because of the high correlation between race and income in the U.S., we expect that metropolitan areas will present a distribution of neighborhoods that resembles to some degree the relationship depicted in figure 1; namely that as neighborhood income increases the percentage of residents who are white also increases.

In this paper we study 15 of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. to investigate the phenomenon of RCAAs. Our interest is uncovering the extent of this settlement pattern, mapping the geographic location of these neighborhoods, preliminarily testing hypotheses about the prevalence and nature of RCAAs, and assessing the degree to which they correlate with other dimensions of metropolitan growth dynamics (i.e., sprawl, overall segregation indices, economic and demographic characteristics).

Publisher: 
Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Sponsor: 
New Initiatives program
Pages: 
34
Online availability
CURA call number: 
NIWEB1

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