America's Racially Diverse Suburbs: Opportunities and Challenges

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Housing Policy Debate, ISSN: 1051-1482, Vol: 23, Issue: 2, Page: 395-430

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Myron Orfield; Thomas F. Luce
Informa UK Limited
Social Sciences; Environmental Science
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This article examines increasing racial diversity of suburban areas in the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the United States, analyzes the stability of racially diverse areas, and proposes a variety of policies designed to promote stably integrated neighborhoods, municipalities, and schools. The more than 6,500 suburban communities and 22,000 census tracts in the 50 largest metropolitan areas are divided into four types based on their racial composition and urbanization, and data for the period 1980-2010 are used to examine racial change and to evaluate the stability of different types of communities. By 2010, just 39% of suburban residents in these metropolitan areas lived in "traditional" suburbs-predominantly white communities or developing exurban areas. This is much lower than in 2000 when 51% of suburban residents lived in these types of suburbs. At the same time, the percentage of suburban residents living in racially diverse suburbs increased from 38% to 44%, and another 17% lived in predominantly nonwhite suburbs by 2010. Racially diverse suburbs exhibit many strengths, but resegregation and economic decline represent very serious challenges. Many currently integrated areas are actually in the midst of social and economic change, and many communities that were once integrated have now resegregated. Fifty-six percent of the neighborhoods that were integrated in 1980 had become predominantly nonwhite by 2010, and only 40% of neighborhoods that were integrated in the 1980 remained in that category in 2010. A variety of housing, legal, and school policies are available to promote stable integration in these areas. © 2013 Copyright Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.