Global neighborhoods — those that are highly diverse with many new immigrants — are growing at an increased rate across the United States, according to a new study.
“It is striking that while the all-white neighborhood is disappearing, its main replacement is the most diverse kind, which includes substantial shares of whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians,” said the study’s coauthor, Dr. John Logan, professor of sociology at Brown University.
“Given the persistence of residential segregation and the deep divide that still separates whites from other groups, it is reassuring to see this one sign of progress.”
For the study, Logan and coauthor Dr. Wenquan Zhang of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater evaluated 342 metropolitan regions with populations of at least 50,000 to determine whether integrated neighborhoods existed outside of the nation’s most diverse metropolitan centers. The data was gathered between 1980 and 2010.
They looked at four types of metropolitan areas that might be expected to have different neighborhood dynamics: mostly white; mostly whites and blacks; whites mixed with a large Hispanic population and possibly Asians but few blacks; and truly multi-ethnic metros with historically large white and black populations with substantial recent immigration of Asians and Hispanics.
The researchers found that neighborhoods in which whites and blacks live alongside Hispanics, Asians, or both are cropping up in large numbers in each type of metropolitan center, throughout the country. This is occurring in many types of urban areas with totally different histories and combinations of populations.
The authors call these “global neighborhoods” because they involve the influx of Hispanics and Asians, many of whom are recent immigrants, Logan said. He described the usual pattern of the development of global neighborhoods as one in which Hispanics and Asians are the first minority entrants into white neighborhoods, followed by black residents.
“In the decades before 1980,” Logan said, “the usual pattern was that when blacks entered a neighborhood, whites were already leaving and white flight was accelerated.”
Urban scholars now hypothesize that “Hispanics and Asians provide an effective social cushion and/or spatial separation between blacks and whites in integrated communities,” the authors wrote in the study. This “absorbs tensions and fosters acceptance between groups, making it possible for blacks and whites to share a neighborhood despite racial barriers in the society at large.”
Global neighborhoods are also emerging in metros with a small Hispanic and Asian presence, the study found, but more often with blacks making the first move, followed by other minorities.
The news is not all good, however. While the number of global neighborhoods is on the rise, the researchers also found increasing numbers of all-minority neighborhoods caused by white residents moving out of previously mixed areas — close to a 50 percent increase over the 30-year period.
The poorest neighborhoods, Logan said, are mostly black, mostly Hispanic, or a combination of these two groups. Despite the publicity devoted to urban gentrification, he added, the study found that it is very rare for whites to move into these areas.
“Overall change in segregation has been modest because the trend toward global neighborhoods is partly counteracted by growing all-minority neighborhoods,” Logan said. “But prior to 1980, change was always toward greater racial separation.”
Logan noted that “it would be too much to expect that decades of growing separation would be suddenly reversed. The upside is that now we can see how positive change can occur and hope that it will continue.”
Logan added that he and Zhang believe that the nation’s demographic changes are altering the pattern of race relations in all parts of the country. For example, exposure to large numbers of Hispanic and Asian residents is changing the way that all groups perceive racial boundaries and react to other groups.
“In a period when so many Americans seem to emphasize the downside of immigration,” said Logan, “it’s useful to see how newcomers are contributing to resolving a longstanding problem.”
The study is published in the journal Demography.
Source: Brown University