I do love five thirty eight. But they aren't always perfect with follow through. Over a year ago, Nate Silver wrote this article about racial diversity and segregation in American cities. In the article, he said he'd write a follow up about metropolitan areas. For a while, I was waiting for this follow up before I commented on (and shared) the article, but at this point I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the follow up isn’t going to happen.
Silver talks about how integration and diversity are very different; if you don't have diversity, you can't segregate (because you don't have groups to segregate by). But, just because you have diversity, it doesn’t mean that you are integrated. So, the question Silver asks it is that, given the amount of diversity a city has, how much integration does it have? And, since this is Nate Silver, he grabbed a database, and wrote a measure of integration: his integration-segregation index. His conclusion was that the most diverse cities in America are very segregated (and that the cities that are both diverse and integrated usually don’t have a lot of black people).
But what really struck me was that I moved directly from the city with the highest integration on Silver's integration-segregation index - Irvine, CA - to the city with the highest segregation - Chicago, IL. Here are screenshots at the same scale from this interactive dot map. Other differences jump out at you (in Chicago, total density is much higher, much more of the land has actual people living on it, and there is much more of a grid). And, of course, geographically, Chicago is much larger than Irvine; my Chicago screenshot shows the northside of Chicago, entirely leaving out the southside, while my Irvine screenshot has the very hispanic Santa Ana in the upper left hand corner, and the very white Newport Beach in the lower left hand corner, with diverse Costa Mesa in between. Both Irvine and Chicago score high on diversity (70% for Chicago, 60% for Irvine, out of a maximum of 80%, because there are five racial groups in this analysis). Irvine is about 45% Asian, 45% non-hispanic white, and most of the rest is hispanic. Chicago is about 33% black, 32% non-hispanic white, and 29% hispanic or latino. But those high diversities in Chicago and in Irvine and distributed differently across the city.
The database Silver used was Brown University’s American Communities Project, which uses data from the 2010 US Census to make five mutually exclusive and exhaustive racial groups, and that means that, to chose a particularly relevant example, any segregation of different groups lumped as “Asians” does not appear in this data. I’m curious: among “Asians,” is Irvine segregated? With, say, Chinese people living in a different area than Pakistani people?
When walking around Irvine, Wobbegong and I would often head coast-ward, while much of the walking I've done in Chicago has been resctriced to the northside of Chicago. Nonetheless, these maps really highlight how much easier it is to walk into a neighborhood with a different racial makeup in Chicago than in Orange county. Wobbegong and I walked through industrial districts and under highway underpasses, but most people don't. In Chicago, just about everyone has experienced suddenly being in a different neighborhood. In the Chicago map, there is a a non-populated horizontal stripe, with a less-dense mostly white (which is blue, on this map) square right above it. My community garden is in that less-dense blue square, while my apartment is the organge area to the left (west).
I’m pretty sure that Silver’s integration-segregation index exaggerates the racial geographic differences between my most recent city and my current one. Except that there aren’t “two Irvines,” as there are “two Chicagos.” And Irvine (and Orange County, CA in general) has a tiny percentage of black people. So here are two approximately-county-sized screen shots. (Of course, neither of these counties are perfect squares aligned with compass north, so I've got some edges that are not in the counties.)
And, for those of you who have never lived in either Irvine or Chicago, and for those of you interested in race and politics, fivethirtyeight had a very interesting article on what “normal America” is, posted just a month ago: 'Normal America' is not a small town of white people.