UC Berkeley Haas Institute study shows Bay Area segregation, despite region’s diversity

Casey Zhang/Staff

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While the Bay Area is diverse, many neighborhoods or cities within the region are highly segregated and do not reflect the diversity of the region, according to a report published Oct. 29 by the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

According to the report, titled “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area,” 39 percent of census tracts in the Bay Area were classified as highly segregated, about 27 percent of tracts were moderately segregated and about 31 percent of tracts showed low segregation.

Using data from the 2010 census and the 2015 American Community Survey, the report shows that white people are the most segregated racial group in the region. Although 39 percent of the Bay Area population is white, about 11 percent of census tracts are more than 75 percent white, and about 22 percent of tracts are more than 66 percent white.

“Segregation isn’t just something done to people of color, but involves a retreat of white communities to certain spaces,” said Alex Schafran, a UC Berkeley alumnus and an urban geography lecturer at the University of Leeds, in an email.

In Alameda County, less than one in five census tracts reflect the demographics of the county for all racial groups, according to the report. Berkeley’s white population is segregated into the northern part of the city, and the Black population is segregated in the southern part of the city, the report found.

The report was the first of its kind to map residential racial segregation for multiple racial groups simultaneously within the Bay Area. The maps in the report utilized a measure of segregation called the divergence index, which measures the difference between a group’s proportion in a region compared to its proportion in a local area within that region.

The most common segregation measure is restricted to comparing segregation for two groups at a time, which is not conducive to multiracial geography, according to Stephen Menendian, co-author of the report and assistant director and director of research at the Haas Institute.

“Most of the work out there that claims to be looking at racial segregation isn’t about segregation — it’s more about racial demographics, concentrations or distributions,” Menendian said.

The report said segregated residential patterns shape residents’ life chances based on racially differing access to public and private resources. Menendian said that “racial inequality is baked into our infrastructure” in many ways, including housing, education and transportation networks.

The Haas Institute will be looking into racial demographic patterns, case studies and impacts of housing policy in future reports.

“We think the Bay Area is really diverse, but it actually has a lot of racial inequality that is historical and built into the infrastructure,” Menendian said. “The implications are pretty enormous.”

Andreana Chou covers student life. Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.