The Contributions of Places to Metropolitan Ethnoracial Diversity and Segregation: Decomposing Change Across Space and Time

Abstract

Although the trend toward greater ethnoracial diversity in the United States has been documented at a variety of geographic scales, most research tracks diversity one scale at a time. Our study bridges scales, asking how the diversity and segregation patterns of metropolitan areas are influenced by shifts in the racial/ethnic composition of their constituent places. Drawing on 1980–2010 decennial census data, we use a new visual tool to compare the distributions of place diversity for 50 U.S. metro areas over three decades. We also undertake a decomposition analysis of segregation within these areas to evaluate hypotheses about the roles of different types of places in ethnoracial change. The decomposition indicates that although principal cities continue to shape the overall diversity of metro areas, their relative impact has declined since 1980. Inner suburbs have experienced substantial increases in diversity during the same period. Places with large white majorities now contribute more to overall metropolitan diversity than in the past. In contrast, majority black and majority Hispanic places contribute less to metropolitan diversity than in the past. The complexity of the patterns we observe is underscored through an inspection of two featured metropolises: Chicago and Dallas.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Practical considerations guided our selection of the threshold for including metropolitan areas in our sample. It was important that the sample include a broad range of metropolitan areas but only those with enough places in 1980 so that they could be grouped into as many as six categories with multiple observations in each category.

  2. 2.

    Throughout the text, we identify metropolitan areas by the name of their largest city (based on 2010 population).

  3. 3.

    The population counts refer to persons living in places and exclude persons living outside of places but in these metropolitan areas.

  4. 4.

    The U.S. Census assigns four metropolitan areas to multiple regions. For the purposes of creating a nested hierarchy, we have assigned all places in Philadelphia to the Northeast region, all places in Louisville (Kentucky) to the South region, and all places in Youngstown and Cincinnati (Ohio) to the Midwest region.

  5. 5.

    The upper thresholds for the 20th, 40th, 60th, and 80th percentiles of household income in 1979 dollars are $7,000, $13,000, $20,000, and $29,000, respectively.

  6. 6.

    We tested our decompositions for robustness to a change in the threshold for identifying White Dominant places. Setting the threshold at 85 % and 95 % instead of 90 % did not alter the substantive conclusions of this analysis.

  7. 7.

    It would also be reasonable to produce the diversity profiles weighted by population, but the graph then becomes a story about the largest places rather than about the distribution of places, as intended here.

  8. 8.

    See Parisi et al. (2011) for an examination of the contribution of within-place segregation.

  9. 9.

    In Tables 25, we examine only within-metro change; the bottom line from Table 1 is the top line of Tables 25.

  10. 10.

    With a few notable exceptions (Detroit; Miami; Gary, Indiana; Camden, New Jersey), principal cities saw a mean increase in diversity (E) of .26 between 1980 and 2010. This indicates that the change in Table 2 is overwhelmingly due to shifts in population location and distribution in other kinds of places rather than a resegregation of these diverse places.

  11. 11.

    Results of the replication are available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Yosef Bodovski and Michael Martin for their able technical assistance. Support for this research has been provided by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD074605, PI Barrett Lee). Additional support comes from the Population Research Institute of The Pennsylvania State University, which receives infrastructure funding from NICHD (2P2CHD041025). The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not reflect the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Fowler, C.S., Lee, B.A. & Matthews, S.A. The Contributions of Places to Metropolitan Ethnoracial Diversity and Segregation: Decomposing Change Across Space and Time. Demography 53, 1955–1977 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0517-3

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Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Segregation
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Multiscale
  • Places