Local Residential Segregation Matters: Stronger Association of Census Tract Compared to Conventional City-Level Measures with Fatal and Non-Fatal Assaults (Total and Firearm Related), Using the Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) for Racial, Economic, and Racialized Economic Segregation, Massachusetts (US), 1995–2010


Research on residential segregation and health, primarily conducted in the USA, has chiefly employed city or regional measures of racial segregation. To test our hypothesis that stronger associations would be observed using local measures, especially for racialized economic segregation, we analyzed risk of fatal and non-fatal assault in Massachusetts (1995–2010), since this outcome is strongly associated with residential segregation. The segregation metrics comprised the Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE), the Index of Dissimilarity, and poverty rate, with measures computed at both the census tract and city/town level. Key results were that larger associations between fatal and non-fatal assaults and residential segregation occurred for models using the census tract vs. city/town measures, with the greatest associations observed for racialized economic segregation. For fatal assaults, comparing the bottom vs. top quintiles, the incidence rate ratio (and 95% confidence interval (CI)) in models using the census tract measures equaled 3.96 (95% CI 3.10, 5.06) for the ICE for racialized economic segregation, 3.26 (95% CI 2.58, 4.14) for the ICE for income, 3.14 (95% CI 2.47, 3.99) for poverty, 2.90 (95% CI 2.21, 3.81) for the ICE for race/ethnicity, and only 0.93 (95% CI 0.79, 1.11) for the Index of Dissimilarity; in models that included both census tract and city/town ICE measures, this risk ratio for the ICE for racialized economic segregation was higher at the census tract (3.29; 95% CI 2.43, 4.46) vs. city/town level (1.61; 95% CI 1.12, 2.32). These results suggest that, at least in the case of fatal and non-fatal assaults, research on residential segregation should employ local measures, including of racialized economic segregation, to avoid underestimating the adverse impact of segregation on health.

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Correspondence to Nancy Krieger.

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This work was supported by the McLennan Family Fund—Dean’s Challenge Grant Program on “Race, Ethnicity and Health” of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Boston, MA, USA). The funder had no role in the design of the study or in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data, or in the writing of the manuscript.

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Krieger, N., Feldman, J.M., Waterman, P.D. et al. Local Residential Segregation Matters: Stronger Association of Census Tract Compared to Conventional City-Level Measures with Fatal and Non-Fatal Assaults (Total and Firearm Related), Using the Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) for Racial, Economic, and Racialized Economic Segregation, Massachusetts (US), 1995–2010. J Urban Health 94, 244–258 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-016-0116-z

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  • Assault
  • Economic segregation
  • Income inequality
  • Index of Concentration at the Extremes
  • Firearm
  • Health inequities
  • Racial inequality
  • Racial segregation
  • Spatial polarization
  • Violence