University of Illinois at Chicago

Disrupting the Cycle of Housing Segregation in Urban America

Take Action

Connect with us

To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Racial disparities have many sources, but by far their key underlying driver is extreme housing segregation. While segregation levels are high in most metro areas, desegregation has occurred in enough areas to show that significant metro-level declines in segregation set in motion forces that reduce racial disparities in many domains. Compared to metro areas with moderate housing segregation, highly segregated metro areas have a black-white unemployment gap that is five times larger and a mortality gap that is three times larger. We now understand the mechanisms that perpetuate segregation, and the (currently small-scale) initiatives that can break down those mechanisms and create instead self-sustaining cycles of housing opportunity and integration [11,14]. We propose to scale-up these initiatives and bring them under a series of coordinated umbrella centers in two metro areas -- Greater Chicago and Greater Richmond -- that capture different aspects of urban segregation and can together provide national models.

Problem Statement

Fifty years after adoption of the Fair Housing Act, most of America's largest metropolitan areas are still highly racially segregated. High segregation is powerfully correlated with a host of negative social outcomes. Scholars now largely agree that these correlations exist because housing segregation has powerful direct and indirect effects upon a host of other phenomena. Three effects are especially notable: * High segregation exacerbates racial inequality. Compared to areas with moderate segregation (e.g., San Antonio, Seattle, San Diego), high-segregation metro areas (e.g., Chicago, New York, Richmond, and dozens of other major metro areas) have vastly larger racial gaps in poverty, employment, test scores, health outcomes, marriage rates, and income. These gaps have stagnated for generations in high-segregation areas; in moderate segregation areas, they steadily shrink. * High segregation concentrates poverty. The proportion of people living in high-poverty neighborhoods is more than twice as high, on average, in high-segregation compared to moderate-segregation areas. * High segregation hurts the "commons" and aggregate measures of well-being. Moderate-segregation metro areas have lower crime levels in both "majority" and "minority" communities. Their politics are less racially polarized. And their governments invest more in public goods, with broader public support.Housing segregation was intentionally created through actions by individuals, and local, state, and federal institutions. Many efforts to combat segregation - developing affordable housing, mobility counseling, affirmative marketing, community investment - show promise, but in isolation they are rarely sufficient to induce the needed systems change. Real, sustained change requires a coordinated, multi-level effort.

Solution Overview

Though housing segregation has been recognized as a problem for decades, public policy has generally addressed it indirectly: through fair housing laws and enforcement (which have reduced discrimination); school busing; low-and-moderate income housing development; and the use of vouchers available to a tiny fraction of the population. We propose a coordinated strategy to directly reduce housing segregation in metro Chicago and Greater Richmond. We reduce segregation in measurable ways through interventions at three scales: the "macro" (metropolitan), the "meso" (neighborhood), and the "micro" (individual). At the macro level, we use an innovative tool, the Inclusivity Rating, to objectively rate the segregative effect of local zoning and land use policies, and target policies (through exposure, pressure, and litigation) having the most severe effects. At the meso level, we use innovative "housing trust" strategies that preserve low-and-moderate income housing in gentrifying neighborhoods to preserve and expand integration. We work with neighborhood institutions to make integration tangible and effective. At the micro level, we provide housing counseling to expand homeseekers' options; we supplement this with innovative housing search engines, leveraged financial assistance, and neighborhood networks to support successful pro-integrative moves. Our eight "housing opportunity centers" (six in Chicago, two in Richmond) coordinate these strategies, which reinforce one another to create measurable cycles of integration and decreases in racial disparities in education, health, employment and other areas. Note that our strategy pursues integration of black and Latinx neighborhoods as well as white ones, and not only reduces disparities, but improves aggregate outcomes.

+ Read More

More Solutions Like This

Ethnic and racial minority rights

Association of American Colleges and Universities

Rx Racial Healing National Mobilization Campaign

United States