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Study Finds That Detroit is the Most Segregated City in the Country

·3 min read

One of the lines that the unseasoned among us like to repeat is that systemic racism doesn’t exist. While I would love to live in that world, the truth is the ongoing effects of systemic racism are easy to see if you’re actually paying attention. While one would hope that segregation is a thing of the past, that’s far from the case, as a recent study has found that Detroit is the most segregated city in the country.

According to WXYZ, the University of California Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute released a report on Monday titled “The Roots of Structural Racism,” that examined 209 American cities, and found that segregation actually increased across 169 of them between 1990 and 2019. Detroit ranks as the most segregated city with a population of 200,000 or more, coming in at 84 percent on the divergence index.

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And just what’s the divergence index, you ask? Well, according to the institute, it’s a scale that “compares the relative proportions of racial groups (or any other groups) at smaller and larger geographies, looking for the degree of ‘divergence’ between two geographies.” The report looks at factors such as poverty rates, property values, life expectancy, and rent prices when comparing highly segregated white neighborhoods, highly segregated Black and brown communities, and integrated communities.

In news nobody saw coming, highly segregated white communities fared far better than highly segregated Black and brown neighborhoods. Black and brown people who were raised in highly segregated white neighborhoods have earned higher incomes than those from predominantly Black and brown communities.

“Although the American public has much greater awareness of the reality of systemic racial inequality, too few people understand that racial residential segregation lies at the heart of this inequality,” Stephen Menendian, the lead author on the project, said. “This is evidenced by how residential segregation determines access to schools, healthy neighborhoods, jobs, and surveillance by police.”

An interactive map created in conjunction with the project allows users to see the segregation levels of each city examined in the report, as well as learn about the factors that contributed to it. In Michigan, none of the cities or counties examined are racially integrated. “Detroit’s Black population today stands at about 78 percent, the highest proportion of any city in the United States. In contrast, the metro area, including Detroit, is only 23 percent Black, and 68 percent white, making Detroit the most segregated city in the United States,” the map explains.

“We believe that this is one of the most sophisticated and powerful tools for understanding the nature and extent of racial residential segregation in the United States. Users can go as deep as they want using our tool to understand this problem,” Samir Gambhir, report co-author and head of the institute’s Equity Metrics program, said of the map.

Hialeah City, Fla ranks behind Detroit as the country’s second most segregated city, with Newark, N.J., Chicago and Milwaukee rounding out the top five.