Surprise: Chicago most segregated city in the U.S.

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Parishioners worship at St. Sabina Catholic Church during the predominantly African-American congregation's Unity Mass in Chicago in 2012. A new poll shows Chicago is America's most segregated city. | REUTERS/John Gress/FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) -- The most segregated city in the United States isn't in the Deep South. It is Chicago, according to a new analysis of statistical information collected for Brown University's American Communities Project.

At his FiveThirtyEight blog, statistics prodigy Nate Silver -- well known for his use of data to predict baseball winners and political losers -- breaks down how Chicagoans of different races may work together, but when it comes to housing they are among the least likely to live in an integrated community.

"Chicago deserves its reputation as a segregated city," Silver writes. "But it is also an extremely diverse city. And the difference between those terms -- which are often misused and misunderstood -- says a lot about how millions of American city dwellers live. It is all too common to live in a city with a wide variety of ethnic and racial groups -- including Chicago, New York, and Baltimore -- and yet remain isolated from those groups in a racially homogenous neighborhood."

Chicago's population is almost evenly divided between three major ethnic groups: blacks at 33 percent, whites at 32 percent and Hispanics at 29 percent. Various ethnicities from Asia and the Middle East make up the rest of the population. That breakdown makes Chicago one of the most diverse cities in American. But diversity and integration aren't the same things, Silver writes.

Instead, Silver writes that statisticians should be looking at where people live, rather than where they work, to judge the level of integration in a city.

"You can have a diverse city, but not diverse neighborhoods. Whereas Chicago's citywide diversity index is 70 percent, seventh best out of the 100 most populous U.S. cities, its neighborhood diversity index is just 36 percent, which ranks 82nd," Silver writes.

Chicago is not alone. In fact, most major American cities east of the Rocky Mountains with a substantial black population have similar patterns of segregated neighborhoods. Atlanta is the second most segregated city in the U.S., but one of only three southern cities in the top-10.

All in all, Silver writes, the cities in the American West have done a better job of developing both a climate of diversity and desegregated neighborhoods. Five of the most diverse cities are in California, as are five of the most integrated cities.