Bay Area Has Become More Segregated Over the Decades, Report Says


The Bay Area has become more racially segregated since 1990, reflecting a long-standing national trend of towns and neighborhoods dividing more sharply along ethnic lines, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley.

Oakland, Fremont, San Francisco, and San Jose are all among the cities classified as “highly isolated” by the university’s Othering & Belonging Institute.

Although the Bay Area has one of the most diverse populations in the country, researchers say ethnic groups have settled in homogeneous neighborhoods, often hampering economic advancement in segregated communities of color. But the Bay Area is not alone – more than 8 out of 10 metropolitan areas have become more exclusive in recent decades.

“The United States continues to be a place of segregation, not integration,” said report author Stephen Menendian. The study measured and categorized demographic, housing and income patterns in nearly 200 US subways with populations over 200,000.

Menendian said land use policies, including restrictions on denser housing and apartments, have resulted in segregation, especially in the Bay Area. “It is clear that excessive restrictive zoning plays an important role.”

Researchers believe the analysis will give elected leaders and planners another tool to assess housing disparities and reassess public policies on economic equity, policing, and systemic racial bias.

Growing segregation has become a priority for regional leaders and business groups.

Ahmad Thomas, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said the heightened awareness of racial disparities has given impetus to social, political and economic change, adding that diverse leadership benefits a company’s bottom line. Thomas launched an SVLG initiative to increase the representation of women and communities of color in leadership roles in Silicon Valley companies. “This is an essential competitive issue for the company,” he said.

Silicon Valley tech companies have helped tackle inequality through innovation and by supporting more affordable housing through policies and funding, Thomas said. “These issues are deep systemic issues,” he said. “But I don’t see them as an intractable problem.”

The impact of segregation, according to the Berkeley researchers, is clear: Residents of communities of color have future economic gains, lower educational outcomes, and poorer health.

The researchers used census data to track migration patterns, housing costs, income, education, and health measures for each census tract in the United States. An online map of the slopes segregation measures from 1980 to 2019.

For example, poverty rates are highest in segregated communities of color (21%) and about triple the poverty rate in segregated white neighborhoods, according to research. Black and Latino children raised in integrated neighborhoods earn about $ 1,000 more per year as adults than those raised in isolated communities. The increase in income is even greater for black and Latino children raised in white neighborhoods.

Additionally, according to the report, “household incomes and home values ​​in white neighborhoods are almost twice as high as in segregated communities of color” in the United States. Menendian said the root cause of social and economic inequality is “residential racial segregation”.

The Bay Area was more integrated in previous generations. In 1980, the neighborhoods of Santa Clara, Mountain View, San Jose, Hayward, Milpitas, Oakland and San Francisco were considered fully integrated, the researchers said. In 2019, many of these neighborhoods became more homogeneous and considered slightly separate. Most of the slightly separated Bay Area neighborhoods have become very segregated today, the researchers say.

Researchers ranked Detroit as the most isolated city in the United States, followed by Hialeah, Florida, a suburb of Miami with one of the highest percentages of Latino residents in the country, and Newark, NJ. Other top 10 cities include Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Miami, Birmingham, Alabama, and New York.

In the Bay Area, Oakland ranked 14th in the United States on the researcher’s measure of segregation, followed by Fremont (34), San Jose (61), San Francisco (65) and Stockton (86).

The study builds on previous work by researchers on housing policy and zoning analysis in the Bay Area. They found that about 80% of residential properties in the area are zoned for single-family homes – a telltale indicator of racial segregation. Neighborhoods reserved for single-family homes are more likely to be exclusively white than communities with a mix of apartments and houses, the researchers found.


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