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How Segregation Is Evolving (And Not Evolving) in the 21st Century

Dartmouth geographer Richard Wright talks about how segregation (and the Chicago School-driven understanding of it) is changing, and how it’s not. In Chicago, the picture’s very different, depending on whether you look at neighborhoods or schools.

Recently I took a dive into segregation stats in Chicago using data from MixedMetro.us. One of the geographers behind that project, Dartmouth’s Richard Wright, has a cogent explanation of their research that’s a good corrective to the “end of the segregated century” canard. The massive growth of the Latino population and ring suburbs has added new facets of diversity and segregation, but the problems of the segregated century remain (via Emily Badger).

Wright and his co-authors are trying to add complexity to a black-white (literal and figurative) understanding of the city that emerged out of Chicago:

Chicago School sociologists produced the first conceptual framework to comprehend the racial and ethnic residential patchworks in US cities (e.g., Park & Burgess 1984[1925]; Sibley 1995 offers an alternative view). The index of dissimilarity emerged in the 1950s as the preferred method from these exchanges and its status went unchallenged for several decades…. The index of dissimilarity still dominates, but instead of reigning supreme as it did in the past it now heads a growing pack of indexes designed to summarize different dimensions of segregation.

It’s an intractable problem in the city, but not for lack of study.

WBEZ has been looking into segregation recently, with a time-lapse video of the Red Line by Dan Weissman that should be of no surprise to anyone who regularly travels it. They also did an excellent analysis of racial segregation in Chicago schools from 1990-2010, and found that while the city has made modest progress in residential segregation, it’s regressed in school segregation.

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