Othering & Belonging Institute updates investigation on Bay Area racial segregation

Infographic depicting data on segregation in the Bay Area
Mai Chiamthamachinda/Staff

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UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute issued an update to its five-part investigation on racial residential segregation in the Bay Area to include data from the 2020 census.

Released Oct. 11, the study provides rankings for the most segregated cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area, as well as the most segregated neighborhoods for various racial groups including white, Black, Latinx and Asian people. The study also measures an “other” group which includes Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and multiracial people. 

The study states this is the first time the institute has released this kind of analysis, although specific racial concentrations have been identified previously in part two of the series.

“We believe where we live determines our life outcomes,” said Samir Gambhir, director of the Equity Metrics program at the Othering & Belonging Institute, in an email. “Our study is intended to highlight the issue of racial residential segregation in the bay area and the nation, measure this phenomenon to highlight the level of segregation experienced by our communities and to investigate the harms that racial residential segregation perpetuates.”

According to Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin, in Berkeley, some of the highest rates of segregation exist in South Berkeley and San Pablo Park. 

Taplin noted some of the city’s recent housing reforms, as well as the ways in which many housing policies have historically been exclusionary.

He added he hopes the study will encourage more people, especially young people, to engage in local politics and policies to integrate neighborhoods.

“These are things that are a product of a long legacy of exclusion, but it’s something that we have the power to readdress,” Taplin said. “I’m hoping more voices will take part in the conversation.”

According to the study, the most intermunicipally, or regionally, segregated cities include East Palo Alto, followed by San Anselmo, Mill Valley, San Pablo, Tiburon, American Canyon, Los Gatos, Gilroy, Lafayette and Orinda.

In 2020, the Bay Area was slightly less segregated than it was in 2010. Overall regional levels of segregation have declined slightly, and only three counties, Marin, Napa and Sonoma, are more segregated than they were in 2010.

However, the Bay Area is considerably more segregated in comparison to 1970, 1980 and 1990. Eight out of nine counties demonstrate more segregation in 2020 than in 1970, and seven of nine were more segregated in 2020 than 1980.

The study states that the most intermunicipally integrated cities include Rohnert Park, Windsor, Petaluma, Pinole, Suisun City and Cloverdale.

Looking forward, Gambhir said part five of the study lists solutions to reduce segregation, which include mobility strategies, housing policies to encourage integration and increased investment in affordable housing programs.

“All this needs political will and intentionality in understanding the harms of segregation and taking corrective steps,” Gambhir said in an email.

Contact Phoebe Chen at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ph0ebechen.