Economic Development, Human Resources, and Real Estate

Grand Rapids metro ranks 39th for 'residential segregation'

May 25, 2018
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The levels of “residential segregation” in the Grand Rapids metro and other markets across the country are being examined in a newly released report.

The Grand Rapids metro ranks No. 39 among the 100 largest metros in the “segregation index” from the report “The Persistent Effects of Residential Segregation,” which was posted this week by Apartment List, an online rental marketplace.

The segregation index is a percentage of a minority group that would have to move to a different neighborhood in order for the distribution of minorities in each neighborhood to match that of the metro.

Grand Rapids metro's overall segregation index is .47, while its black segregation index is 0.66, its Hispanic segregation index is .52 and its Asian segregation index is .48.

“In many cases, these housing patterns did not emerge naturally and, instead, represent the lasting impacts of policies – both informal and institutionalized – specifically aimed at marginalizing minorities, with the black population facing the worst of this discrimination,” says Chris Salviati, housing economist, Apartment List.

Comparatively, the report lists Milwaukee as the highest segregated large metro in the country, with an overall segregation index of .61. Seattle, one of the largest metros in the country, has an overall segregation index of .32.

The report attributes segregation to historically “exclusionary zoning tactics” that kept minorities, particularly black Americans, out of white neighborhoods “well into the second half of the 20th century.”

“These policies and other related factors led to higher concentrations of poverty in minority neighborhoods and the persistence of significant wealth gaps has served to reinforce patterns of residential segregation,” Salviati says.

Consequently, the report says, the rates of homeownership across the country are lower among minorities than white Americans. In Grand Rapids, the white homeownership rate is 77 percent, compared to 32 percent for blacks, 48 percent for Hispanics and 65 percent for Asians.

The report found residential segregation has decreased between 2009 and 2016 but only slightly, and metros with the fastest-growing populations over that period have seen the smallest reductions. Between 2009 and 2016, the overall segregation index in Grand Rapids has decreased from .50 to .47.

“Although this year represents the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we still have a long way to go to ensure that equality of opportunity is not negatively impacted by the neighborhood in which a person is raised,” Salviati says.

The report’s data is based on data from the Census Bureau American Community Survey and Apartment List’s calculations.

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