Stanford/Cornell study shows increasing segregation by income

March 06, 2016

By Jonathan Rabinovitz

A new report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education and Cornell University shows that income segregation in U.S. cities grew in recent years, offering no reprieve from a trend that began in the 1980s.

With this study, the researchers show that the percentage of families living in predominantly rich or poor neighborhoods, as opposed to middle-income neighborhoods, has more than doubled since 1970: In 2012, 34 percent of families lived in rich or poor neighborhoods, up from 15 percent in 1970; by contrast the proportion living in middle-income neighborhoods declined to 40 percent in 2012 from 65 percent in 1970.

 “Middle-class, mixed-income neighborhoods have become less common as more neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and concentrated affluence have developed,” said Sean Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education at Stanford and a co-author of the report. “These are not new trends, but this latest increase in segregation exacerbates the increase of economically polarized communities that has occurred over the last four decades.”

The new report examines changes in segregation-by-family-income in the nation’s largest 117 metropolitan areas for 2007-12, the most recent years for which census tract data is available.  It builds upon earlier studies by Reardon and Kendra Bischoff, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell, which first documented the rise of income segregation.