Recent study reveals trends of racial segregation in Bay Area

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Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society/Courtesy

While the Bay Area is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse places in the world, segregation persists, and certain communities of color are increasingly forced to more distant parts of the Bay, according to a recently released study by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

The institute launched its series on “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area” in 2018, when it released its first brief on the topic, highlighting segregation throughout the region through detailed maps that break down the racial makeup for various counties. This second brief, published Wednesday, expands on the initial findings of racial segregation and tracks trends in racial demographics throughout the Bay Area for five major ethno-racial groups — African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx, whites and Native Americans.

According to Stephen Menendian, co-author of the report, one of the most important points of the study concerns the Asian American population — a group that has the highest growth rate in recent decades compared to other racial groups. Asian Americans currently make up almost 24 percent of the overall Bay Area population as of 2010, and Menendian predicts that they may soon constitute a plurality in the region.

The same growth trends do not hold true for all ethno-racial groups. The percentage of the Bay Area population represented by Africans Americans, for example, has decreased from 8.9 percent in 1990 to 6.4 percent in 2000. According to the study, African Americans migrated to the Bay Area in large numbers from 1940 to 1970 but were “sharply restricted” in where they were allowed to live, causing lasting trends of racial segregation. From 1980 to 2010, East and West Oakland experienced great decreases in the African American population, credited to the “larger and ongoing” narrative of displacement and gentrification.

“I’m not surprised (at the results of this study),” said Kate Harrison, Berkeley City Council member for District 4. “We can see the impacts of ongoing segregation in our daily lives.”

Harrison said that in society, there is an ongoing assumption that increasing the amount of market-rate housing will remedy the issue of high housing costs, but she instead advocates for more lower-rate housing to help solve issues of displacement. segregation2_haas-institute-for-a-fair-and-inclusive-society_courtesy

The study highlighted a trend of Black “out-migration” from 1980-2019, as residents have moved toward the periphery of the Bay Area.

Lori Droste, Berkeley City Council member for District 8, directly links this trend with the drastic increase in housing costs within the region.

To remedy the higher housing costs, Droste said the Berkeley City Council is examining ways to incorporate more “missing middle housing” — classified as multi-unit housing such as duplexes and triplexes — to provide more affordable homes comparable to current single-family homes. Droste said council members have asked the Berkeley city manager to report back on potential revisions to current housing types.

“The report indicates what we’ve known for a while, and we’re seeing a massive exodus of our communities of color from Berkeley,” Droste said. “In my mind it seems very clear — (it) has everything to do with high cost of living.”

Menendian and co-author Samir Gambhir plan to release three more briefs in this study, touching on different measures of segregation, its harmful effects and policy intervention to reduce racial segregation. Menendian emphasized that while other studies have reported on racial demographics in relation to other problems such as health, education or employment, he and Gambhir are the first people to release a study that exclusively focuses on racial demographics.

“Racial segregation is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that shapes the life chances of individuals based upon their racial identity, and thereby is the root cause of inter-group racial inequality,” Menendian and Gambhir said in the study.

Contact Sabina Mahavni at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.