Friday, January 7, 2011

Racial Segregation in DC (continued)

"Racial segregation is as taken for granted as any feature of urban life in the United States...The fact of severe and persistent racial segregation of housing patterns in metropolitan areas is not contested...," write DC's own sociologists Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat (GWU) in their 2002 article "Experiencing Residential Segregation: A Contemporary Study of Washington, D.C."

As you can see from my previous post (12/31), racial segregation is alive and well in Ward 6. From this map of American Community Survey data (2005-2009), the census tract with over 90% white residents is #66: south of East Capitol, north of Pennsylvania, between Capitol and 8th St SE. The census tracts with over 90% black residents are: 1) #7903: south of Benning, north of C St NE, along the Anacostia, 2) #64: south of M St SW, west of South Capitol, to the Anacostia, and 3) #6002: just north of #64. However, these are just the most extreme cases. (I need to use the real census data, which I will do in the future.)

Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat tested three reasons given for racial segregation. First, some argue that it is a matter of individual choice, most households generally prefer to live in culturally homogeneous neighborhoods. Second, others say it is just economics, racial segregation reflects the financial status of racial groups. Third, another group argues that racial segregation is the result of racial discrimination.

They conducted a telephone survey of 921 adults in DC and nearby MD/VA suburbs in 2001. During the survey, they asked the respondents about their search for their current home, rental or owned. They also collected socioeconomic data about the respondents, including their income, education, age, and so on.

They found that, taking into account the differences that exist between whites and blacks on socioeconomic variables, race continues to play an important role in the experiences of residents within the area's housing market. Controlling for income, education, age, etc., they discovered:
  1. Blacks were about half as likely as whites to obtain their first-choice housing unit.
  2. Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to report that they, or someone they know, have experienced discrimination in their housing search or mortgage financing.
  3. Blacks are significantly less likely than whites to believe the blacks and whites have the same opportunities within the housing market. They found that over 50% of whites believed that whites and blacks, and whites and Hispanics, had the same choices in the housing market. In contrast, 16% of blacks believed that whites and blacks had the same choices, while 21% of blacks believed that whites and Hispanics had the same choices.
In these areas, the data supported the racial discrimination argument. The economic argument was supported when one looked at 1) whether someone used a real estate agent or family/friends as sources of information for their search and 2) level of satisfaction with their home's environment. The individual choice argument was not supported.

Their findings support those of a 1998 Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington study. The Council sent out pairs of people (one black and one white) to investigate the local housing and mortgage market. According to Squires and his colleagues, "Investigators found that blacks were discriminated against 33% of the time in their efforts to buy homes, 44% of the time when they attempted to rent, and 37% of the times they applied for mortgage loans. Discriminatory practices included racial steering, misrepresentation about the availability of homes, differences in rental rates for the same units and the number of units that were shown, disparities in mortgage interest rates, differential application of particular stands, and others."

What to do about this? Squires and his colleagues suggest several responses, including education, learning about the situation and about people's rights. They conclude, "Racial segregation is not inevitable. It is clearly a fact of urban life, but it is not a healthy feature of cities and metropolitan areas. And it is not something a willing community must tolerate in perpetuity."

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