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Changes in the Segregation of Whites from Blacks during the 1980s: Small Steps toward a More Racially Integrated Society

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds, and William H. Frey. "Changes in the Segregation of Whites from Blacks during the 1980s: Small Steps toward a More Racially Integrated Society." PSC Research Report No. 92-257. September 1992.

High levels of black-white residential segregation have become a staple of American urban life for much of the twentieth century. While other racial and ethnic groups became assimilated geographically, blacks were constrained to reside in selected neighborhoods, and communities. These separate black and white residential patterns were reinforced and maintained by a series of institutional mechanisms which evolved over time and led to peak segregation levels during the 1960s (National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 1968). Evidence from the 1970s decade shows a discernible but slight diminution in segregation levels (Massey and Denton 1987, 1988). These reductions resulted, in part, from attitude changes and legislation traced to the mid-1960s Civil Rights movement.

This paper represents the first analysis of black-white residential segregation for 1980-1990. Using data from the 1990 and 1980 censuses, it evaluates patterns for all metropolitan areas with substantial black populations. The results show a continued reduction in residential segregation across metropolitan areas, suggesting that the forces aimed at lowering institutionalized segregation have had some effect. However, the pace of change has been slow and blacks remain a uniquely segregated group.

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