Racial Diversity
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This predictor discusses how race-based segregation affects the educational, economic, social, and health outcomes of people of color. Because predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods are underresourced compared with predominantly white neighborhoods, residents of those neighborhoods attend lower-performing schools, have weaker connections to employment networks, have less access to high-quality health care, and are more exposed to environmental toxins, all of which impede their mobility.

Evidence of the Relationship between Predictor and Related Outcomes

  • Racial segregation and income segregation within race increase rates of concentrated poverty (Quillian 2012).
  • A long history of discrimination and discriminatory practices such as redlining have resulted in economic hardships and high levels of residential segregation for Black Americans. The high concentration of Black Americans in neighborhoods with extremely limited resources greatly affects Black people’s chances for social and economic success (Massey and Denton 1993).
  • Middle-class Black individuals are more likely to live in areas with higher rates of poverty and fewer college graduates than are middle-class white individuals. Black residents of lower-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to move to higher-poverty neighborhoods, whereas the opposite is true for white residents of lower-poverty neighborhoods. Some of this is because of discrepancies in wealth (Quick 2019).
  • The racial segregation of neighborhoods, schools, and social networks limits the ability of young Black Americans to develop the human capital necessary to achieve strong financial outcomes in adulthood (Hardaway and Mcloyd 2009).
  • High levels of racial segregation are strongly associated with wealth gaps. White families hold 10 times the wealth of Black families and more than 8 times that of Latinx families. Black entrepreneurs have less access to capital and are therefore more likely to use personal savings as financing (Loh, Coes, and Buthe 2020).
  • Home values are substantially lower in predominantly Black neighborhoods, while home values see price premiums in more exclusive, predominantly white neighborhoods (Loh, Coes, and Buthe 2020).
  • Estimates based on data from Chicago show that if Black-white geographic racial segregation were reduced, Black annual income would increase by $2,455 per person, 83,000 more adults would complete bachelor's degrees (22 percent of whom would be Black), and the homicide rate would be 30 percent lower (Acs et al. 2017).
  • A meta-analysis of articles that examined the effect of racial segregation on birth outcomes for Black and white mothers found that Black mothers were at increased risk for preterm births. Qualitative studies support the evidence that Black mothers exposed to more racial segregation were more likely to have adverse birth outcomes (Mehra, Boyd, and Ickovics 2017).
  • Racial residential segregation is associated with lower life expectancy. Using mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that when compared with their white counterparts, Black men and Black women had a lower probability of survival from ages 35 to 75 (14 percent and 9 percent lower, respectively). Bringing the overall Black socioeconomic status to match overall white socioeconomic status levels and eliminating racial residential segregation would close the Black-white survival gap (Pepescu et al. 2018).
  • High levels of residential racial segregation for Black residents are associated with worse self-reported health (Subramanian, Acevedo-Garcia, and Osypuk 2005).
  • Card and Rothstein (2007) show that both school and neighborhood racial segregation are associated with worse education outcomes for Black students.
    • A shift from a highly segregated city to an integrated city closes 25 percent of the Black–white gap in SAT scores.
    • The negative effect of neighborhood-level segregation is stronger than the effect of school-level segregation.
  • Logan, Minca, and Adar (2012) conducted a national-level study on inequalities in performance of schools that children of different races and ethnicities attend and found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American children attend schools that are on average at the 35th to 45th percentile of performance compared with other schools in the same state. In contrast, white and Asian children on average attend schools at the 60th percentile of performance. Moreover, this difference is already clear during elementary school and persists at higher grades. The authors highlight that this points to the differences in the geography of opportunity (Logan, Minca, and Adar 2012).

How Investments Can Influence the Predictor at State or Local Levels

Localities can increase opportunities for families of color to rent or own homes in well-resourced areas. This can be achieved by increasing access to down-payment assistance with matched savings programs (Stegman 2021).

Communities can also work to combat exclusionary zoning to promote diverse and inclusive community development. Reforming zoning to allow mixed-income communities diversifies the types of homes in a community and makes them more racially and economically inclusive (Dawkins, Jeon, and Knaap 2017).These reforms can include lowering home- and lot-size requirements, upzoning to include duplex and triplex construction, or minimizing discretionary review processes.

Increasing the geographic mobility of families with housing vouchers using landlord outreach or mediation, tenant counseling, and moving-cost assistance can dramatically improve access to high-opportunity neighborhoods for families with vouchers (Bergman et al. 2019). Scaling up these programs would increase access for minority families to communities of opportunity.

Localities can invest in affordable rental and sale properties by creating incentives for developers to build in parts of the city where there is less supply or where longtime residents are vulnerable to displacement, as is being done in Chicago by Mayor Lightfoot (Cherone 2022).


The primary reference is marked with an asterisk.

Acs, Gregory, Rolf Pendall, Mark Treskon, and Amy Khare. 2017. The Cost of Segregation. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Bergman, Peter, Raj Chetty, Stefanie DeLuca, Nathaniel Hendren, Lawrence Katz, and Christopher Palmer. 2019. Creating Moves to Opportunity: Experimental Evidence on Barriers to Neighborhood Choice. Working paper 26164. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Card, David, and Jesse Rothstein. 2007. “Racial Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap.” Journal of Public Economics 91 (11-12).

Cherone, Heather. 2022. “Efforts to Reduce Residential Segregation by Boosting Affordable Housing Supply Starting to Work, City Officials Say.” WTTW, February 22.

Dawkins, Casey, Jae Sik Jeon, and Gerrit-Jan Knaap. 2017. “Creating and Preserving Affordable Homeownership Opportunities: Does Inclusionary Zoning Make Sense?Journal of Planning Education and Research 37 (4): 444–56.

* Hardaway, Cecily R., and Vonnie C. Mcloyd. 2009. “Escaping Poverty and Securing Middle Class Status: How Race and Socioeconomic Status Shape Mobility Prospects for African Americans During the Transition to Adulthood.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38 (2): 242–56.

Logan, John R., Elisabeta Minca, and Sinem Adar. 2012. “The Geography of Inequality: Why Separate Means Unequal in America Public Schools.” American Sociological Association 85 (3): 287–301.

Loh, Tracy Hadden, Christopher Coes, and Becca Buthe. 2020. The Great Real Estate Reset. Washington DC: Brookings Institution.

Mehra, Renee, Lisa M. Boyd, and Jeanette R. Ickovics. 2017. “Racial Residential Segregation and Adverse Birth Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Social Science & Medicine 191: 237–50.

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Quick, Kahlenberg. 2019. “Attacking the Black–White Opportunity Gap That Comes from Residential Segregation.” New York: The Century Foundation.

Pepescu, Ioana, Erin Duffy, Joshua Mendelsohn, and José J. Escarce. 2018. “Racial Residential Segregation, Socioeconomic Disparities, and the White-Black Survival Gap.” PLoS One 13 (2): e0193222.

Quillan, Lincoln. 2012. “Segregation and Poverty Concentration: The Role of Three Segregations.” American Sociological Review 77 (3): 354–79.

Stegman, Michael, and Mike Loftin. 2021. “An Essential Role for Down Payment Assistance in Closing America’s Racial Homeownership and Wealth Gaps.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute. 

Subramanian, S.V., Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, and Theresa L. Osypuk. 2005. “Racial Residential Segregation and Geographic Heterogeneity in Black/White Disparity in Poor Self-Rated Health in the US: A Multilevel Statistical Analysis.” Social Science & Medicine 60: 1667–79.

Subramanian, S.V., Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, and Theresa L. Osypuk. 2005. “Racial Residential Segregation and Geographic Heterogeneity in Black/White Disparity in Poor Self-Rated Health in the US: A Multilevel Statistical Analysis.” Social Science & Medicine 60: 1667–79.

Opportunity-Rich & Inclusive Neighborhoods

Related outcome: Stable and healthy living environment; good physical health; age-appropriate cognitive development and educational attainment; strong financial health

Mobility dimension engaged: Power and autonomy; being valued in community

Couple Walking illustration