80% of America’s large metropolitan areas were more racially segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990, the researchers found, even though explicit racial discrimination in housing has been outlawed for half a century. The levels of residential segregation appeared highest not in the American south, but in parts of the north-east and midwest: the most segregated metropolitan area in the US according to the study is New York City, followed by Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit.
The racial wealth gap is primarily based on differences in home appreciation values: Black families historically had homes that did not appreciate and often went down in value. Segregated housing creates segregated schools: 75% of students in primary and secondary schools are assigned based on where they live. The racial impacts of the criminal justice system are rooted in racial segregation.
Home values are twice as high in highly segregated white neighborhoods as in segregated neighborhoods of color. Poverty rates are three times greater in highly segregated neighborhoods of color. Life expectancy is starkly different. Every outcome that matters in life is shaped by environment. That’s what we mean by structural racism. It’s not about racial prejudice. It’s about the system and environment in which we live.
Segregation is not about separating people on the basis of their skin color: what it’s about is separating people from resources based on their skin color. It’s about putting people of color in neighborhoods that have less resources, fewer public goods – and predatory finance, harmful environmental exposure, and so on. Segregation is the most efficient way to do that. It’s about efficiency. You can spend all the money you want to try to compensate it: you will never fully overcome the disparity.
Anyone arguing just for redistribution to equalize equality of opportunity – you’re essentially saying, let’s make things separate but equal. When have things ever been separate but equal? It’s a fundamental fallacy. White people are not going to tolerate spending eight times as much in a black school as in a white school to create equality of opportunity. It’s unsustainable.
Racial inequality is a byproduct of self-interested behavior among the most powerful. The wealthy are channeled into the top zip codes, and the people who run those municipalities may be progressive politically, and pro-Black Lives Matter, but they want to protect their investment, and they will enact policies that minimize tax base outlays and maximize property values.