Urban Transition Project

The long-term goal of the Urban Transition HGIS project is to provide historically accurate GIS maps and geocoded data for many U.S. cities in the whole period 1880-1940. One step in this direction was a project done in collaboration with Allison Shertzer and Randall Walsh (both in the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh). Shertzer arranged to gather 100% microdata from the webpages of Ancestry.com for ten Northern cities for each decade 1900-1930, including each person’s race, birthplace, and parent’s birthplace in 2012, before this data was publicly available.

Research teams at Pittsburgh and Brown created enumeration district (ED) maps for each city and decade, based on photographs of ED maps at the national Archives and other historical sources that described ED boundaries. These GIS maps were drawn as a polygon layer on street grids from 1930 that were developed by the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago or from 1940 that were developed by Brown’s Urban Transition Project. This research was supported by grants from National Science Foundation (SES-1355693, SES-1459847) and National Institutes of Health (1R01HD075785-01A1). The Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University (R24HD041020) provided general support.

These cities are New York (with a separate file for Brooklyn in 1880), Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh (with Allegheny mapped separately in 1880 and 1900), and Detroit. They included over 18 million residents in 1930 (about half the total in the largest 100 cities). A full description of the methodology of this work was published as:

Allison Shertzer, Randall P. Walsh, and John R. Logan. 2016. “Segregation and neighborhood Change in Northern Cities: New Historical GIS data from 1900-1930 Historical Methods 49, 4: 187-197.

For researchers who wish to analyze these maps and data, we now provide them for download. Please cite the source as Shertzer, Walsh, and Logan (2016), and provide a link to this webpage. Click HERE for the final versions. For each city you will receive a zipped folder with the following kinds of data: 1) a historically accurate 1940 street grid that can be used for reference in all years; and 2) shape files showing enumeration district (ED) and ward boundaries in each decade.

The shape files include a ward and ED identifier, the total, white, black, and immigrant populations, and the mean and median occupational standing of employed residents (SEI). The ward may be a useful areal unit for some studies, but it is not available or it is incomplete in the microdata files for these years that are now available from the Minnesota Population Center (MPC, https://usa.ipums.org/usa/). The Urban Transition HGIS Project has created identifiers for wards (or for comparable units used in some cities such as precincts or assembly districts) based on combinations of EDs. We mainly relied on information provided by Ancestry.com for this purpose.

An early analysis of these data resulted in this study of the early emergence of black ghettos in Northern cities:

John R. Logan, Weiwei Zhang, Richard Turner, and Allison Shertzer. 2015. “Creating the Black Ghetto: Black Residential Patterns Before and During the Great Migration The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 660: 18-35.

Abstract: Were black ghettos a product of white reaction to the Great Migration in the 1920s and 1930s, or did the ghettoization process have earlier roots? This study takes advantage of recently available data on black and white residential patterns in several major Northern cities in the period 1880-1940. Using geographic areas smaller than contemporary census tracts, it traces the growth of black populations in each city and trends in the level of isolation and segregation. In addition it analyzes the determinants of location: which blacks lived in neighborhoods with higher black concentrations, and what does this tell us about the ghettoization process? We find that the development of ghettos in an embryonic form was well underway in 1880, that segregation became intense prior to the Great Migration, and that in this whole period blacks were segregated based on race rather than class or Southern origin.

The on-line supplement to this article provides pdf files showing maps of the location and concentration of black settlements at the ED level in each of these cities, decade by decade, starting with 1880 and using census tract maps for 1940. Click here to link to these maps. In a typical case an early cluster of black residents expands over time into the larger ghettos that scholars are familiar with by 1940.

A closely related article covering the same period but using other data and map sources offers a more detailed analysis of change in New York City and Chicago:

John R. Logan, Weiwei Zhang, and Miao Chunyu. 2015. “Emergent Ghettos: Black Neighborhoods in New York and Chicago, 1880-1940American Journal of Sociology 120(4):1055-1094.

Additional studies that are partly based on these mapped data include:

Allison Shertzer and Randall P. Walsh. "Racial Sorting and the Emergence of Segregation in American Cities"a NBER Working Paper 22077, November 2016.

Allison Shertzer. "Immigrant Group Size and Political Mobilization: Evidence from European Migration to the United States." Journal of Public Economics 139 (2016): 1-12.

Allison Shertzer, Tate Twinam and Randall P. Walsh. "Race, Ethnicity, and Discriminatory Zoning," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 8.13 (2016): 217-246.