What Are America’s Most Segregated Cities?

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Flickr User Eric Fischer (walkingsf)

And what does it say about us that we care?

Digital cartographer Eric Fischer, the man behind those cool tourist vs. locals maps from a few months ago, is at it again. Using data from the 2000 census, Fischer has made color-coded maps of the racial divisions in more than 100 American cities. (Each dot represents 25 people: red is White, blue is Black, green is Asian, orange is Hispanic and gray is Other.)

We know that drawing conclusions based on these maps is faulty: the data are 10 years old, and the scale is so high that any conclusions we do draw will almost certainly be reached by jumping. However, this is the sort of thing that we can’t help but analyze:

—Beyond all of its other problems, Detroit appears to be the most strictly segregated of all of the major cities. Even going beyond the traditional 8 Mile Road dividing line, the suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Dearborn and Inkster all look like solid blocks on this map.

New York still has its divisions (check out how strict of a racial boundary 96th Street is) but it still look the most diverse of all the urban areas, with the possible exception of San Francisco. Every borough save Staten Island looks like a tie-dyed t-shirt.

—Western cities like Phoenix, San Antonio, Las Vegas and El Paso look like they have the most fluid boundaries. This could just be an effect of the map, though: These cities are all most White or Hispanic (which are similar colors on the map) and have less-dense populations that make divisions look blurrier.

Portland looks so white.

OK, so these are fun maps to joke about, but do they mean anything? Heather Horn over at the Atlantic Wire has a great roundup of what people smarter than NewsFeed think, including this illuminating quote from Good magazine’s Andrew Price:

What do we, as a society, want to see in maps like this? I think it’s safe to say that the clear separation of races in Detroit is a symptom (or cause) of serious social problems. At the same time, it seems unrealistic to expect perfect integration and it’s unclear if we should want that anyway. It’s great that our cities have vibrant ethnic neighborhoods.

Good point! Still, we can’t help but use these maps as bludgeons in the never-ending war between New York and Los Angeles. (via Switched)