Journal Article

Together but apart: Do US whites live in racially diverse cities and neighborhoods?

Are whites increasingly living in racially diverse communities? Or are they clustering together in mostly white communities or with white neighbors? We link cross-sectional data from the household records in the 1989, 1999, and 2009 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to metropolitan, place, and block data from the US decennial censuses. Our analyses provide little evidence that whites are increasingly choosing to live in all-white or mostly white cities or suburban communities or that they mostly avoid places with diverse minority populations. Moreover, whites on average are not only increasingly living in racially diverse communities but also living with minorities—including blacks—on the same city blocks in these communities. Still, these emerging patterns of white exposure to minorities—both at the place and block levels—vary significantly by socioeconomic status. We show that white population responses to growing ethnoracial diversity are highly segmented and that clustering together is expressed differently at different levels of geography, i.e., between and within metropolitan cities and suburbs. White residential integration and segregation are important but uncharted demographic components of America’s evolving system of stratification and societal cohesion. 

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Daniel T. Lichter is Ferris Family Professor, Departments of Policy Analysis and Management and Sociology, Cornell University. Domenico Parisi is Professor of Sociology and Director, National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center, Mississippi State University. Michael C. Taquino is Associate Research Professor, National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center, Mississippi State University.