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Residential Segregation - Black/White
Residential Segregation - Black/White in United States
United States

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Residential Segregation - Black/White in depth:

Residential Segregation - Black/White by State

Index of dissimilarity, with higher values indicating greater segregation between Black and non-Hispanic white households, ranging from zero (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation)

Residential Segregation - Black/White Trends

Index of dissimilarity, with higher values indicating greater segregation between Black and non-Hispanic white households, ranging from zero (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation)

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About Residential Segregation - Black/White

Top State(s): Delaware: 46

Bottom State(s): Idaho: 81

Definition: Index of dissimilarity, with higher values indicating greater segregation between Black and non-Hispanic white households, ranging from zero (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation)

Data Source and Years: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2017-2021

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Residential segregation of Black and white households is a fundamental cause of racial disparities in health in the United States. The manipulation of the housing market through laws, restrictive contracts and intimidation tactics in the 20th century codified and increased residential segregation. This period of sanctioned institutional racism is the basis for the Black-white residential segregation that persists today, maintained through redlining and other discriminatory practices. 

Segregation in residential areas restricts socioeconomic mobility and concentrates exposure to social and physical hazards that harm health. Racial differences in equitable access to quality schools, proximity to good jobs and access to healthy food resulting from residential segregation lead to disparities in health outcomes. Adverse environmental impacts of segregation, such as increased exposure to harmful pollutants, also contribute to poorer health.

  • Black communities in the U.S. are more likely than Hispanic or Asian communities to be segregated from white communities; relative to British rates of Black segregation, Black Americans face three times the rate of segregation. Black males especially experience larger disparities in social class as segregation rates increase.
  • White households with children experienced higher levels of racial segregation than white households overall.

While the root causes of racial segregation run deep and complex, some immediate strategies to reduce segregation and its impact include:

  • Promoting racial equity in housing and community development by integrating equitable practices for transparency, community engagement and collaborative planning into affordable housing strategies.
  • Removing zoning laws. Single-family zoning laws create and reinforce segregation.
  • Improving public transit safety and accessibility. Public transit safety and accessibility are lower in segregated neighborhoods, and many segregated communities are divided by highway systems, limiting mobility. 
  • Establishing affordable housing options for segregated communities throughout metropolitan areas. 
  • Establishing equitable lending programs that increase secure mortgages among Black Americans. 
  • Implementing Place-Based Special Purpose Credit Programs that enable banks to extend favorable credit to economically disadvantaged borrowers with common characteristics, such as race and income, in distinct geographic areas.

Healthy People 2030 cites residential segregation as an example of structural discrimination. Discrimination is a key issue in the Social and Community Context domain.

Committee on Informing the Selection of Health Indicators for Healthy People 2030, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Health and Medicine Division, and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Leading Health Indicators 2030: Advancing Health, Equity, and Well-Being. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2020.

Downey, Liam, and Brian Hawkins. “Race, Income, and Environmental Inequality in the United States.” Sociological Perspectives 51, no. 4 (December 2008): 759–81.

Iceland, John, Kimberly A. Goyette, Kyle Anne Nelson, and Chaowen Chan. “Racial and Ethnic Residential Segregation and Household Structure: A Research Note.” Social Science Research 39, no. 1 (January 2010): 39–47.

Kramer, Michael R., and Carol R. Hogue. “Is Segregation Bad for Your Health?” Epidemiologic Reviews 31, no. 1 (November 1, 2009): 178–94.

Massey, Douglas S. “Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Conditions in U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” In America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2001.

McArdle, Nancy, and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia. “Consequences of Segregation for Children’s Opportunity and Wellbeing.” Presented at the A Shared Future: Fostering Communities of Inclusion in an Era of Inequality, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, April 2017.

Thomas, Melvin, and Richard Moye. “Race, Class, and Gender and the Impact of Racial Segregation on Black-White Income Inequality.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1, no. 4 (October 2015): 490–502.

Williams, David R., and Chiquita Collins. “Racial Residential Segregation: A Fundamental Cause of Racial Disparities in Health.” Public Health Reports 116, no. 5 (September 2001): 404–16.

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