Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Segregation Struggles a Recent Report Exposes Pittsburgh's Prevailing Racial Disparities

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Segregation Struggles a Recent Report Exposes Pittsburgh's Prevailing Racial Disparities

Article excerpt

During the past couple of months, I have heard a number of newcomers to Pittsburgh say how shocked they were to find a region so segregated.

While census data from the past 30 years indicate some signs of increasing diversity, we still remain a region deeply divided. In 1980, the average white person in the Pittsburgh metro area lived in a census tract that was over 95 percent white. In 2010, that same white person lived in a tract that was about 92 percent white.

Even as their percentage of population in the region has declined, as a group, whites remain very isolated. Blacks in our region, on the other hand, are living in more diverse settings. In 1980, the average black person lived in a census tract that was over 55 percent black. In 2010, that number dropped to under 41 percent.

The lie of "separate but equal" was exposed decades ago, but the tragic effects of racial separation in Pittsburgh persist. A recent report by the Urban Institute shows significant racial disparities in the region across a range of indicators from income to homeownership rates to school testing scores. The report gave Pittsburgh a failing grade.

Researchers with the "US 2010" project show that whatever their personal circumstances, black and Hispanic families on average live at disadvantaged neighborhoods.

For the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, the report showed that middle-income and affluent, non-white households all tend to live in poorer neighborhoods than their white counterparts. Affluent blacks live in neighborhoods where the median household income is lower than that of neighborhoods where poor whites live, and non-white households -- whether poor, middle-income or affluent - - tend to live in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates than their white counterparts.

An acute lack of diverse communities in our region is no accident or simply a matter of personal choice. Segregated neighborhoods are products of public policies as well as the result of discriminatory housing practices by real estate agencies, mortgage lenders and private housing providers.

Transforming our segregate landscape remains an imperative, but creating diversity will not be easy. …

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