Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Residential Segregation, and Neighborhood Change in the United States, 1980-2010

John Iceland and Barrett A. Lee (Pennsylvania State University)

Iceland and Lee will focus their research on the residential manifestations of increased racial and ethnic diversity, immigration, and other social and demographic changes.

From America’s largest cities to small rural communities, they will examine racial and ethnic diversity, residential segregation, and neighborhood change, using data from the 1980 through 2010 censuses and the 2005 through 2009 rounds of the American Community Survey (ACS).

One area of inquiry will investigate the magnitude and structure of diversity in communities large and small: not just black/white or white/nonwhite, but identifying which ethnic groups are present and in what percentage. The notion of evenness – having many groups of equal size – marks the most diverse areas. Nationwide, they expect to see a trend toward greater diversity, with less diversity in the Midwest and pockets around the U.S.

Lee and Iceland will use the entropy index (E) to analyze diversity at two levels. At one level the population is divided into six groups: non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic African Americans, non-Hispanic Asians/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives, non-Hispanics of other races/multiracial individuals, and Hispanics of any race. At the other level they will further distinguish among national origin groups of Hispanics (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Salvadorans and Colombians) and Asians (Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese).

A second research area will document patterns of racial and ethnic residential segregation for a wide variety of groups. Iceland and Lee will make extensive use of the information theory (H) index, allowing them to deal efficiently with the current multi-group reality. Immigration may play a role in shaping patterns of segregation; immigrants often settle in ethnic enclaves, at least in the short term.

Finally, the researchers will study change in diverse neighborhoods over time, deciding whether mixed neighborhoods tend to be more stable or transitory. They expect that immigration and economics will play large roles, and to see more mixed neighborhoods in the South and West than in the Midwest and Northeast.

“You look at Milwaukee, you look at Detroit: Those places are so segregated, decade after decade,” Iceland said. “I think in new neighborhoods, with new construction, there often seems to be more mixing compared to places that have established residential patterns defined by race.”


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