Race, Not Income, Produces Segregation in Metro BostonCAMBRIDGE, Mass.
Metropolitan Boston’s poor minority residents are over twice as likely to live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty than are poor Whites, and three times more likely to live in severely distressed neighborhoods, characterized by high shares of single-parent households, school dropouts, poverty and jobless males detached from the labor force, according to a new study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP).
“Beyond Poverty: Race and Concentrated Poverty Neighborhoods in Metro Boston,” is the second in a series of reports issued through the Metro Boston Equity Initiative. The study finds that, while a substantial share of poor Whites live in middle-class, suburban neighborhoods, most poor Blacks, Hispanics and certain Asian subgroups reside in much higher-poverty, urban, racially segregated areas. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Salvadorans, Cambodians and Cape Verdeans are especially likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty.
The report shows that a surprisingly high share of minorities who are not poor also live in high-poverty neighborhoods in areas where middle-class Whites are very rarely found.
“High housing costs and skyrocketing property taxes produce enormous challenges for all poor Metro Boston residents,” said study author, Nancy McArdle, “but poor people of color face the added and disproportionate burden of living in neighborhoods in which a combination of socio-economic disadvantages limits their opportunities.” Incredibly, even Black and Latino households with incomes over $50,000 are more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than are White households with incomes under $20,000.
While poverty rates fell for minorities during the 1990s economic boom, rapid growth of these populations led to an absolute increase in the number of poor people of color by 2000. A group of urbanized satellite cities — including such municipalities as Lawrence, Lowell, Brockton, Lynn and Worcester now house half of poor minorities, but only a third of poor Whites. These satellite cities, several of which form the geographic cores of some of the most racially segregated areas in the nation, gained 19,000 poor Latinos and 10,000 poor Asians over the 1990s, according to the study.
Strategies to deconcentrate poverty among people of color should include “stronger enforcement of fair housing laws, insistence on fair shares of affordable housing provision in all cities and towns, siting of new subsidized housing in areas not suffering from concentrated poverty, and programs to allow lower-income and minority residents to remain in rapidly gentrifying areas,” said Dr. Gary Orfield, CRP’s co-director.
Orfield also linked the findings to racial segregation in schools. “We must work to break the link between concentrated poverty and racial segregation in neighborhoods and in schools. Increased funding for Metco (a voluntary transfer program serving urban students), regional magnet schools and clearly conceived school desegregation plans are important steps to alleviate some of the educational consequences of residential segregation.”
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