UC Berkeley study researches Black, Latinx communities’ quality of life

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A recent study conducted by UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, formerly the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, found that members of the Bay Area’s Black and Latinx neighborhoods experience significantly worse quality of life outcomes than members of predominantly white ones.

The study, published Oct. 30, was the fourth installment in a series entitled “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area,” which aims to illuminate patterns associated with racial housing disparity and the resulting issues of inequality. In this part of the series, the institute focused on the harmful effects produced by racial segregation in the Bay Area.

“In our previous entries … we’ve been able to illustrate the patterns, history and measurement techniques of segregation,” said Arthur Gailes, an author of the study and a fair housing coordinator with the institute, in an email. With this entry, we measure the exact consequences that has on people’s everyday lives and future outcomes.”

The study looked at data from all nine counties in the Bay Area and compared information from highly segregated Black and Latinx neighborhoods, as well as mostly white and relatively diverse neighborhoods. According to the third brief of the series, the Bay Area is more segregated today than at any time since 1970.

Researchers found that members of predominantly Black and Latinx communities experience lower incomes, property values, life expectancies, childhood reading and math proficiency, and adulthood education attainment than residents of mostly white areas. The data did not point to any significant difference in housing segregation or its negative impacts in Berkeley, according to Gailes.

“The study proves what we’ve already known, it’s been happening forever,” said District 3 City Councilmember Ben Bartlett. “We need to create new paradigms that incentivize integration — it’s everything.”

Consistent with the rest of the country, segregation in the Bay Area appears to accompany a “hoarding of resources” by certain communities, namely wealthier white ones, at the expense of communities of color, according to the report.

The research points to the resulting unequal access to opportunity as one of the main drivers of the observed disparities in quality of life.

“The fact that the neighborhoods that many POC grow up in lack so many of the resources present in the rest of the region’s communities is immensely important in understanding the persistence of those inequities,” Gailes said in the email.

Bartlett pointed to the Berkeley Inclusion in Opportunity Index, an initiative he proposed, which the city uses to study the extent to which its approximately $390 million budget is spent inclusively.

The fifth and final installment of the institute’s series will focus on how policy can effectively relieve the issue of racial residential segregation.

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.