The Continuing Increase in Income Segregation, 2007-2012


Sean F. Reardon


Kendra Bischoff

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Income segregation in the United States grew substantially from 1970 to 2007 (Bischoff & Reardon, 2014; Jargowsky, 1996; Reardon & Bischoff, 2011a, 2011b; Watson, 2009). Income segregation grew sharply in the 1980s, changed little in the 1990s, and then grew again in the early 2000s. A primary cause of this growth in segregation has been the rise in income inequality over the last four decades (Bischoff & Reardon, 2014; Reardon & Bischoff, 2011b; Watson, 2009).

Income inequality in the U.S. continued to rise in the 2000s. Although income inequality declined modestly from 2007 to 2009 during the Great Recession, it quickly rebounded, and is now higher than it was in 2007. In 2014, the top 10% of earners collectively accrued 50% of all income in the U.S. (Piketty & Saez, 2015). Has the post-recession increase in income inequality led to a continued rise in income segregation?

In this report, we use the most recent data from the American Community Survey to investigate whether income segregation increased from 2007 to 2012. These data indicate that income segregation rose modestly from 2007 to 2012. This continues the trend of rising income segregation that began in the 1980s. We show that the growth in income segregation varies among metropolitan areas, and that segregation increased rapidly in places that experienced large increases in income inequality. This suggests that rising income inequality continues to be a key factor leading to increasing residential segregation by income.

download metropolitan area income segregation data, 1970-2012 (Stata file)

download full report (march 2016 version)

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APA Citation

Reardon, S.F., & Bischoff K. (2016). The Continuing Increase in Income Segregation, 2007-2012. .

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