Register Friday | October 22 | 2021

Mapping Segregation

Four decades have passed since the end of formal racial segregation in the United States, but as anyone can tell you, informal segregation remains a part of everyday life in many areas of the country. That becomes especially clear when you look at Eric Fischer‘s new maps of race and ethnicity in major American cities. In each of these new maps, one dot represents 25 people, and each dot’s colour represents a racial or ethnic group as defined by the US Census: non-Hispanic white is red, black is blue, Hispanic is orange and Asian is green.

Every city in the world is divided along some lines, be they ethnic, linguistic or economic, but what is shocking about Fischer’s maps is how many American cities remain starkly divided according to race. Just look at Detroit, where 8 Mile Road is visible not only as the border between city and suburbs but as the line of demarcation between black and white.

(Along with ethnicity, the maps also illustrate population density — the more densely-populated an area, the more opaque it appears on the map. What surprises me about the Detroit map, along with the starkness of the city’s racial divide, is how the city proper remains just as dense as the suburbs, despite massive depopulation.)


New York, probably the world’s most ethnically diverse city, looks a bit like a quilt, with different racial groups occupying distinct patches on the map. Manhattan below 96th Street is overwhelmingly white; central Brooklyn is mostly black; Union City in New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan, is largely Hispanic. If the map were refined to individual cultural and ethnic groups, like Dominicans, Italians and Orthodox Jews, the city would look like even more like a mosaic. It’s more complicated than Detroit but just as segregated.

Is there a city that is perfectly integrated? The closest would appear to be San Bernardino, California, a sprawling satellite city near Los Angeles. White, black and Hispanic people seem to be scattered throughout the city in equal measure, with a fairly even distribution of Asian people, too.

All of these maps are based on data from the last US Census, which was taken in 2000. The results for this year’s census won’t be fully released until 2012. A lot has happened over the past decade — but has the pattern we see in Fischer’s maps changed?

(From UrbanPhoto. Follow DeWolf on Twitter.)

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