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National Research Council (US) Panel on Hispanics in the United States; Tienda M, Mitchell F, editors. Hispanics and the Future of America. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.

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Hispanics and the Future of America.

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4Redrawing Spatial Color Lines: Hispanic Metropolitan Dispersal, Segregation, and Economic Opportunity

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In what might be a first for Georgia, students from one high school will attend three separate proms. Toombs County's dubious distinction demonstrates the evolving arithmetic of race in America, where white plus black plus brown doesn't add up to “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (Dan Chapman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 11, 2004)

Toombs County, Georgia—a little town about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta—made national news when its local high school sponsored three senior proms instead of its usual two.1 Principal Ralph Hardy, who is black, insisted that racism is not a serious problem at his school and that segregated proms are a matter of taste: “Latinos, blacks, and whites all prefer their own music and food.” A prime example of communities, mostly in the South, that have experienced unprecedented Hispanic population growth, Toombs instantiates the growing complexity of the long-standing struggle for racial integration as newcomers from Mexico, Central America, and South America alter the ethno-racial landscape, forcing multiculturalism in places previously colored black and white. Whether the Hispanicization of metropolitan America redraws spatial color lines in urban places long divided into black and white into three-way splits is an empirical question with far-reaching implications for social integration and civic engagement.

More than at any time in the past, Hispanics have consolidated their national presence owing to their unprecedented geographic dispersal buttressed by growing numbers (Zúñiga and Hernández-León, 2005). Historically concentrated both regionally and in a few large metropolitan areas, Hispanics have scattered to nontraditional places since 1980, but with intensified force during the 1990s, redrawing ethno-racial landscapes along the way (see Chapter 3; Fischer et al., 2004; Logan, Stowell, and Oakley, 2002). Fueled by high levels of immigration from Mexico, Central America, and South America, the Hispanic geographic scattering presents the paradox of rising levels of regional and national integration combined with resegregation of old gateway cities and diverse settlement patterns in the new destinations (Alba and Nee, 1999; Logan, Stowell, and Oakley, 2002).

Residential location is a powerful indicator of social position because many economic opportunities and social resources, such as affordable housing, quality schools, public safety, transportation, and recreational and social amenities are unequally distributed across space. Where people live also influences access to jobs that pay family wages, the likelihood that racial and ethnic groups will commingle in schools, places of worship, and commercial establishments—in short, the prospects for minority group integration.

Accordingly, in this chapter we examine the implications of the Hispanic dispersal for segregation patterns, intergroup commingling, homeownership rates, and employment. Following a brief review of recent studies about race and ethnic residential segregation, we use the 100 largest metropolitan areas to document Hispanics' unprecedented geographic dispersal to new urban destinations; to portray trends in spatial segregation using measures of evenness and exposure; and to consider the social significance of the new residential patterns based on changes in school segregation, home ownership, and employment outcomes. Throughout we systematically compare Hispanics with blacks in order to understand whether, where, and how their new urban choices alter black spatial arrangements.


Historically Hispanics have been highly concentrated regionally according to national origin, but their residential patterns differ from those of blacks and non-Hispanic whites in their high levels of early urbanicity and lower levels of spatial segregation from whites. As early as 1970, four out of five Hispanics resided in metropolitan areas, mostly in central cities (Bean and Tienda, 1987, pp. 146–147). Their highly urbanized residential history differentiates them from non-Hispanic whites, whose nonmetropolitan presence remains comparatively strong. Hispanics' metropolitanization experience also differs from that of blacks, whose mass exodus from the rural South after World War II resulted in very high levels of residential segregation (Massey and Denton, 1993; National Research Council, 1989). Unlike blacks, Hispanics forged their urban imprints through intrametropolitan moves, including flows across international borders.

Despite a rise in racial integration during the 1990s, black–white residential segregation levels remain consistently above those of Hispanics nationally and in most metropolitan areas.2 Even as Hispanics became more spatially integrated with whites in 86 of 210 metropolitan areas, their residential separation from whites actually increased in 124 metropolitan areas (Logan et al., 2004). This paradox of rising and falling segregation across metropolitan areas appears related to Hispanics' unprecedented geographic scattering to new regions of the country.

Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami have continued to serve as prominent gateways to U.S. job and housing markets during the recent mass migration. At the same time, the 2000 decennial census confirmed what many local school boards and governments already knew: that Hispanics, and recent immigrants in particular, are changing the face of America by making historically unprecedented residential choices (Kandel and Cromartie, 2004; Suro and Singer, 2002; Zúñiga and Hernández-León, 2005). Table 4-1, which summarizes changes in the residential distributions of Hispanics compared with the total U.S. population, illustrates the recentness and rising intensity of their geographic dispersal. Already under way during the 1980s, the Hispanic scattering gained considerable momentum during the 1990s.3

TABLE 4-1. Total and Hispanic Population Distribution and Composition According to Metropolitan Area Type, 1980–2000 .


Total and Hispanic Population Distribution and Composition According to Metropolitan Area Type, 1980–2000 .

Metropolitanization of the total U.S. population inched up over the past two decades, but Hispanics are still more likely to live in metropolitan areas than the typical U.S. resident. Already in 1980, the largest 100 metropolitan areas housed over 3 in 4 Hispanics, and they did so for only 62 percent of all U.S. residents by 2000. An additional 13 percent of all Hispanics resided in metropolitan areas that were not among the largest 100 compared with 18 percent of the total population. Only 11 percent of Hispanics lived in nonmetropolitan areas in 1980 compared with nearly one-fourth of all U.S. residents; by 2000, these shares fell to 8 and 20 percent, respectively. Despite the declining share of nonmetropolitan Hispanic residents, the nonmetropolitan Hispanic population has doubled since 1980 and currently is the most rapidly growing segment of rural and small-town America (Kandel and Cromartie, 2004).

For ease of exposition and parsimony, we divide the 100 largest metropolitan areas into three strata: the Traditional Metros, New Hispanic Destinations, and a residual, designated Other Large Metros. The Traditional Metros include 29 metropolitan areas located in the Southwest, as well as the past and current immigrant gateway cities of Miami, New York City, and Chicago. The stratum called New Hispanic Destinations represents 50 metropolitan areas outside the Southwest where the Hispanic presence rose appreciably since 1980. The remaining 21 Other Large Metros are those with relatively small Hispanic populations—less than 5 percent as late as 2000—including large rust belt cities with appreciable black populations, for example Philadelphia, Detroit, and St. Louis.4

Owing to faster demographic growth compared with native whites and blacks, the Hispanic proportion also increased in the largest 100 metropolitan areas, albeit unevenly. Between 1980 and 2000, Hispanic population shares rose from 18 to 30 percent in the Traditional Metros, while the black share declined slightly, from 14 to 12 percent of the stratum total. Hispanicization of the Traditional Metros is all the more impressive because many of these cities grew substantially during the period, with immigration driving up the foreign-born share of the population from 16 to 27 percent of the stratum total.5

The New Hispanic Destinations are of particular interest because of the number of places involved, their nationwide spread, their diverse growth rates, and the variable size of their black population. Unlike the Traditional Metros, where numerically dominant Hispanics further increased their population share over two decades, blacks remain numerically and proportionately dominant in both the New Hispanic Destinations and the Other Large Metros. In the New Hispanic Destinations, blacks outnumbered Hispanics by a ratio exceeding 6:1 in 1980, but by 2000, it plummeted to just under 2:1. By comparison, the black-to-Hispanic ratio in the Other Large Metros was higher both at the outset and the end of the period—8:1 in 1980 versus 4:1 in 2000. Still, the direction of change in population composition is clear.

The New Hispanic Destinations and Other Large Metros differ from each other in another important way, namely the salience of immigration in population diversification. In the New Hispanic Destinations, the foreign-born population share doubled (from 6 to 12 percent), but in the Other Large Metros, the foreign-born share remained relatively stable over the period. Ethno-racial profiles of nonmetropolitan and small metropolitan areas were also reconfigured as the Hispanic and black shares evened out. The rising Hispanic presence—from 5 to 9 percent in the remaining metropolitan areas and from 3 to 6 percent in nonmetropolitan areas—balanced the proportions of blacks and Hispanics. Large numbers of Hispanics settling in nonmetropolitan areas are recent immigrants with low levels of education; a significant segment are undocumented (Kandel and Cromartie, 2004).

Not only does the term “Hispanic” mask a great deal of within-group diversity, but also the ethnic make-up of the population varies considerably by metropolitan type. As the U.S. Hispanic population has become more diversified through immigration, the Cuban share of the total declined nationally and across all types of metropolitan areas, but especially the Traditional Metros and the New Hispanic Destinations. Concomitantly, the relative proportions of all “other” Hispanic nationalities rose from 19 to 27 percent in the Traditional Metros and from 34 to 37 percent of the Hispanics in the New Hispanic Destinations over the period (see Appendix table A4-2). Although the relative share of Puerto Ricans living in the Traditional Metros declined by half over the period, they still constituted over 1 in 3 Hispanics in the New York metropolitan area in 2000, down from nearly 60 percent in 1980. In the New Hispanic Destinations, no single group comprises a clear majority, although Mexicans, whose share rose from 35 to 39 percent between 1980 and 2000, remain the largest single group.

Understanding the paradox of rising Hispanic residential segregation against the backdrop of their unprecedented geographic dispersal requires comparisons with the experiences of other groups. For instance, how does an influx of Hispanics affect the spatial patterns of blacks, Asians, and whites? It is not clear whether the decline in black segregation levels results because Hispanics' are sharing space with them, with whites, or with both. To examine this question, we use measures suited to portray spatial separation patterns in multiethnic contexts. Furthermore, considering how Hispanics' urban dispersal results in spatial isolation provides clues about their socioeconomic integration prospects in both old and new settings.


Two countervailing forces activated by population moves—assimilation and succession—produce patterns of residential segregation. Before the onset of mass immigration during the 1970s, spatial assimilation trumped residential succession as the dominant mechanism driving Hispanic residential segregation. With the exception of Puerto Ricans living in New York, in 1980 Hispanics were only moderately segregated from Anglos—in sharp contrast with the apartheid levels experienced by blacks at the time (Massey, 1981).6

Segregation patterns began to change during the 1970s for two reasons. First, after nearly three decades of wage growth among unskilled workers, the wages of workers with college and high school educations began to diverge in the mid-1970s (Danziger and Gottschalk, 1995). Residential segregation tends to rise when the economy stagnates because immigrants and poor ethnics cluster into established neighborhoods where they can draw on social supports (Massey and Denton, 1987). Second, as the new era of mass migration gained momentum during the 1980s, residential clustering in ethnic and immigrant neighborhoods increased. Massey and Denton (1987) show that Hispanics' average segregation level across the 60 largest metropolitan areas remained moderate during the 1970s, around .44, but that segregation rose in metropolitan areas in which Hispanic immigrants settled. As Los Angeles became the primary destination of new Latin American immigrants, Hispanic residential segregation from whites there approached that of New York City, historically the most segregated city for Hispanics. Chicago's Hispanics also became more segregated from whites during the 1970s, as the volume of new immigrants rose (Bean and Tienda, 1987).

A third possible mechanism for the rise in Hispanic residential segregation is discrimination in housing markets. Because Hispanics were not included in the Housing Discrimination Survey until 1989, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted its second national audit, it is not possible to evaluate this mechanism before this date. However, the 1989 survey revealed that Hispanics experienced adverse treatment relative to whites in almost 25 percent of their attempts to secure rental housing and in slightly over 25 percent of their home-buying inquiries (Turner et al., 2002). A third housing audit study conducted in 2000 found a slight increase in the adverse treatment of Hispanics in the rental housing market and, for the first time, registered higher levels of rental housing discrimination than blacks (Turner et al., 2002). Because Hispanic immigrants are more likely than their native-born counterparts to seek rental housing, they probably account for most of the registered increase in housing discrimination. However, the 2000 study showed that Hispanics experienced declines in adverse treatment in the sales market.

Several analyses of post-1980 residential patterns reveal lower levels of racial segregation in the most diverse metropolitan areas, yet without exception, blacks remained more spatially separated from whites than either Hispanics or Asians. Frey and Farley's (1996) study of segregation in 18 multiethnic metropolitan areas during the 1980s shows that segregation declined more rapidly for all groups in these contexts, as it did in places experiencing rapid growth in minority populations. Analyzing several hundred metropolitan areas, Logan et al. (2004) also showed a continuing decline in black–white segregation during the 1990s. Of the 255 metropolitan areas they examined, black–white segregation fell in all but 15 between 1980 and 2000. By contrast, aggregate Hispanic–white segregation remained relatively unchanged during the 1980s and registered a slight increase during the 1990s. However, this apparent stability concealed highly diverse experiences across areas, with some featuring greater integration and others resegregation. Informative binary comparisons with respect to whites in multiethnic settings cannot reveal whether and how color lines may be changing, and in particular whether a growing Hispanic presence in places historically divided along racial lines softens color boundaries in social space.

Not surprisingly, segregation measures based on multiple groups yield different insights about intergroup relations. Iceland and colleagues (2002) show that Hispanics (and Asians) experienced increases in three types of segregation between 1980 and 2000, namely evenness (dissimilarity), exposure (p* isolation index), and clustering (spatial proximity). However, despite sustained declines over two decades, black segregation remains above that of Hispanics and Asians in all three dimensions. Moreover, the drop in black segregation was insufficient to alter hypersegregation, defined as high levels of spatial separation on several dimensions. In 2000, blacks were hypersegregated in 29 metropolitan areas compared with only two for Hispanics—Los Angeles and New York City (Wilkes and Iceland, 2004). It is therefore noteworthy that, except for Chicago, black hypersegregated metropolitan areas lack large Hispanic populations.

It is conceivable that, except for the black hypersegregated metropolitan areas, population diversification facilitated the decline in racial residential segregation, particularly in locations that became more ethnically diverse. Because this is difficult to discern using segregation measures based solely on binary comparisons, several researchers have used multigroup entropy indices to examine the relationship between the growing diversity of places and patterns of segregation. Using entropy indices of overall diversity and segregation for all U.S. cities, Iceland (2003) concludes that increases in metropolitan area diversity between 1980 and 2000 resulted in higher segregation for all groups except blacks, which he (like Frey and Farley, 1996) interprets as evidence of a weakened racial divide.7

Using two measures of segregation—the dissimilarity and isolation indices—Iceland and Lake (2004) show that Hispanic segregation from whites differs by nativity and ethnicity. Their empirical support for the spatial assimilation hypothesis is bolstered by evidence that native-born Hispanics are less segregated from whites than their foreign-born counterparts, and that recent immigrants are more segregated than longer term residents. Although binary comparisons based on measures of evenness are less informative by themselves because Hispanics increasingly reside in multiethnic urban places, they indicate that immigrants are more socially segregated from whites than the native born.

To better appreciate the consequences of Hispanics' urban dispersal for intergroup contact, we examined their residential segregation with respect to blacks, Asians, and whites using measures of evenness and exposure and comparing outcomes by types of metropolitan areas. The following section first portrays how Hispanic segregation patterns evolved since 1980 compared with blacks in the largest 100 metropolitan areas. Subsequently we consider the implications of spatial arrangements for social isolation, school segregation, home ownership, and labor market integration.

Spatial Segregation by Types of Metropolitan Areas

Although multigroup indicators of segregation are advantageous for assessing residential trends for Hispanics, to maintain comparability with many prior studies we also use the dissimilarity index (D), which measures evenness in the distribution of two groups across neighborhoods (census tracts) in a metropolitan area. Segregation is minimized when each tract reflects the same proportion of each group as their representation in the city as a whole. Equation (1) shows the dissimilarity index, where xi and yi are the numbers of X and Y group members in tract i, while X and Y are the metropolitan area totals.

Image p2000e49dg108001


A limitation of this binary measure is its inability to portray the overall status of segregation in multiethnic places. We minimize this bias by calculating segregation between minority groups (Hispanics and blacks in this case) and non-Hispanic whites (DH/W and DB/W), as well as between both blacks and Hispanics and all other groups (DH/O and DB/O). Because immigration is a driving force in Hispanic population growth and geographic dispersal, for comparative purposes we also compute segregation between foreign- and native-born residents (DFB/O).8 And, for the year 2000, we measure the degree to which foreign-born Hispanics are segregated from all others (DHFB/O).9

TABLE 4-2. Segregation Trends (D) by Metropolitan Area Type for Hispanics, Blacks, and the Foreign Born: 1980–2000 .


Segregation Trends (D) by Metropolitan Area Type for Hispanics, Blacks, and the Foreign Born: 1980–2000 .

A second dimension of Hispanic segregation examined is exposure, (P*), which measures the degree of potential contact between the members of two groups within the census tracts of a city. When the probability of contact is calculated with respect to one's own group, the exposure index measures isolation. Equation (2), the most commonly used measure of exposure, estimates the probability of contact between groups X and Y, where ti is the total population of tract i and the other components are the ame as Equation (1).

Image p2000e49dg109001


Table 4-2 portrays temporal and spatial variation in Hispanic segregation levels for the three metropolitan types and, for illustration of variation across metropolitan areas, selected metropolitan areas within each type (see also Appendix Table A4-2). Segregation indices for blacks and all foreign-born provide comparison benchmarks. In Traditional Metros, Hispanics were moderately segregated from all other groups in 1980 (.446) and slightly more segregated from whites (.476). By 2000, these differentials appear to be heading in opposite directions. Over the 20-year period, the level of Hispanic segregation from all other groups fell 1 percent, but during the same time period their separation from whites increased 3 percent. This indicates that Hispanic population growth raises their likelihood of sharing residential space with groups other than whites. We address this issue in further depth below, after describing how segregation trends vary across types of metropolitan areas.

The largest increases in Hispanic segregation occurred in the New Hispanic Destinations, where their residential separation from other groups rose 10 percent—from .375 in 1980 to .412 in 2000. Although Hispanic segregation from all others and whites remained lower in New Hispanic Destinations compared with Traditional Metros, the countervailing trends have produced some convergence between strata. Moreover, the average level of segregation in New Hispanic Destinations masks considerable variability across specific metropolitan areas, reflecting variation in their size, their preexisting minority populations, and the timing of the Hispanic influx. For instance, as Atlanta's Hispanic population share increased tenfold between 1980 and 2000, their segregation from all other groups rose 56 percent, from .297 to .462. However, there does not appear to be a strict relationship between the rate of Hispanic demographic growth and increases in segregation levels.10

To illustrate, both Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Providence, Rhode Island, have similar sized Hispanic populations (both slightly under 100,000 in 2000) that grew about 325 percent between 1980 and 2000. Yet during this period, Hispanic segregation increased far more in Providence than in Minneapolis. In Providence, Hispanic segregation from all other groups increased 26 percent, from .505 in 1980 to .635 in 2000, making them the most segregated of all groups living in Providence in 2000, including blacks. By contrast, in Minneapolis, Hispanics' residential segregation rose only about 5 percent over the same period. These disparities partly reflect differences in the ethnic composition of Hispanics in both cities. Unlike Minneapolis, Providence houses a relatively large number of Puerto Ricans, who tend to experience higher levels of segregation than other Hispanic groups (Massey, 1981).

Cross-group comparisons with other groups provide additional context for interpreting Hispanic segregation trends, especially in light of claims that the Hispanic geographic dispersal reshaped urban color lines. Table 4-2 suggests that blacks residing in the Traditional Metros have benefited from the continued influx of Hispanics over the past 20 years, as they experienced large average declines in segregation from Hispanics and all others and to a slightly lesser extent whites. Their moderately high 1980 segregation levels from whites (.654) and from all others (.621) were reduced by 15 and 21 percent, respectively, by 2000. These decreases were not uniform across places, however. In New York, for instance, segregation of blacks from whites was virtually unchanged and remained very high (.82) throughout the 20-year period. Moreover, black residential separation from others dropped a mere 6 percent in two decades, remaining high at .67.

Nevertheless, blacks remain more segregated from other groups in the New Hispanic Destinations compared with the Traditional Metros. They also experience higher average levels of segregation from others than do Hispanics. For the most part, the color lines in the New Hispanic Destinations were drawn in black and white through the 1970s because no other groups had significant representation in most of these cities. Consequently, average levels of racial segregation were high in 1980, with dissimilarity scores of .689 from all others and .699 from whites. The influx of Hispanics into these cities probably played a substantial role in the steady declines in racial segregation through the 1980s and 1990s. Over this period, the level of segregation between blacks and all others declined an average of 17 percent, while segregation from whites fell 14 percent.

Immigration is an important final piece of the changing residential puzzle over this 20-year period. As noted by other studies, segregation levels between native and foreign-born often increase following a substantial rise in immigration, as occurred in both the Traditional Metros and the New Hispanic Destinations. In the Traditional Metros, spatial separation between natives and immigrants rose over this time period from .279 in 1980 to .311 in 2000. Similarly, the foreign-born in New Hispanic Destinations experienced rising levels of segregation from natives since 1980, from .274 to .324 by 2000.

More fine-grained comparisons for Hispanic foreign-born in 2000 yield noteworthy insights. In the New Hispanic Destinations, foreign-born Hispanics not only are markedly more segregated than immigrants generally, but also are more segregated than their counterparts in the Traditional Metros. In 2000 the average dissimilarity of all foreign-born from natives was .311 in Traditional Metros compared with a score of .456 for foreign-born Hispanics, who also are 2.9 percent more segregated from others than all Hispanics are from other groups. In the New Hispanic Destinations, these differences are even more striking, as foreign-born Hispanics are 1.6 times more segregated from other groups compared with the foreign-born in general. In addition, foreign-born Hispanics are 22 percent more segregated from others than are Hispanics as a group. In short, increased Hispanic segregation in the New Hispanic Destinations appears to be largely driven by the higher degree of spatial separation experienced by the foreign-born.

The almost uniform increases in segregation for Hispanics settling in New Hispanic Destinations accompanied by substantial decreases in blacks' segregation from others in these metropolitan areas suggests the plausible hypothesis that the Hispanic dispersal is softening established color lines and weakening class divisions (Logan, 2003; Morenoff and Tienda, 1997). Logan (2003) and others have dubbed this phenomenon the “buffer hypothesis.” In Chicago, for example, Morenoff and Tienda (1997) showed that the growth and residential concentration of Mexican immigrants transformed several inner-city neighborhoods experiencing succession into working class hubs rather than underclass ghettos. The changing exposure of blacks and Hispanics to other groups lends further support to the buffer hypothesis because, as the Hispanic presence increases the ethnic diversity of a place, segregation among all groups, and segregation of blacks from all others, decline, as demonstrated in the next section.


Residential clustering results either when newcomers choose to live near ethnic compatriots or when groups are systematically excluded from selected neighborhoods and school districts via housing discrimination and discriminatory lending policies (Turner et al., 2002). Thus the social significance of the Hispanic scattering transcends physical space and influences prospects for social integration. In particular many immigrants congregate in high-density ethnic neighborhoods until they become familiar with U.S. institutions and acquire proficiency in English, but over time they participate in residential assimilation. Accordingly, in this section we examine several correlates of spatial separation, including social isolation, school segregation, home ownership trends and labor force activity.

Social and Cultural Isolation

Tables 4-3a and 4-3b report (P*) indices depicting the exposure of Hispanics (3a) and blacks (3b) to whites, blacks, Hispanics, and others from 1980 to 2000, averaged across metropolitan types. The exposure index indicates the probability of sharing a tract with a member of a given race group, but when all possible combinations are represented, it reveals the average share of each group present in the typical neighborhood for that group. For instance, the exposure of Hispanics to whites at a level of .348 in the Traditional Metros indicates that, in 2000, the typical Hispanic in these metropolitan areas lived in a neighborhood that was 35 percent white. Isolation is the extent of exposure Hispanics had to other compatriots—namely, the probability of sharing a tract with a coethnic.

TABLE 4-3a. Segregation Trends (P*) by Metropolitan Area Type For Hispanics: 1980–2001 .

TABLE 4-3a

Segregation Trends (P*) by Metropolitan Area Type For Hispanics: 1980–2001 .

TABLE 4-3b. Segregation Trends (P*) by Metropolitan Area Type for Blacks: 1980–2000 .

TABLE 4-3b

Segregation Trends (P*) by Metropolitan Area Type for Blacks: 1980–2000 .

Hispanics became increasingly isolated in all metropolitan areas during the 1980s and 1990s, but there are large differences in the degree of isolation experienced by type of area and in specific metropolitan areas. For instance, in 2000 the average Hispanic isolation in Traditional Metros (.489) was over three times greater than the average for Other Large Metros (.082) but in 1980 the comparable ratio was seven-fold. Even within metropolitan types, there is considerable variability in isolation levels. In Los Angeles, second largest among the Traditional Metros, the average Hispanic lived in a neighborhood that was 63 percent Hispanic in 2000—up from 50 percent in 1980—while the average Hispanic in Chicago lived in a neighborhood that was only 48 percent Hispanic in 2000. Partly because Hispanics comprise relatively small population shares in the New Hispanic Destinations and especially in the Other Large Metros, their social isolation is considerably lower in these places: on average, their Hispanic compatriots comprised well below 20 percent of the neighborhood.

Besides other Hispanics, what other groups reside in the typical Hispanic's neighborhood? As Hispanic residential segregation from other groups, and particularly from whites, rose in the New Hispanic Destinations (Table 4-2), their exposure to whites declined. Table 4-3a reveals that in the New Hispanic Destinations, Hispanics' residential contact with whites is relatively high, with an exposure index value of .618. However, this represents an 18 percent decline since 1980. Hispanics in living in Traditional Metros not only average less exposure to whites than their counterparts residing in New Hispanic Destinations, but also the proportion of white in their average neighborhood dropped appreciably, from 50 percent white in 1980 to 35 percent white in 2000.

Hispanic contact with blacks also varied by metropolitan type. With an average neighborhood composition of 9 percent, Hispanics living in the Traditional Metros had a fairly constant, low probability of sharing residential space with blacks. By contrast, Hispanics in New Hispanic Destinations were increasingly likely to share residential space with blacks, as the average neighborhood percentage black rose from 15 to 17 percent. From the perspective of blacks living in New Hispanic Destinations, their probability of sharing residential space with Hispanics rose during the 1980s and 1990s, from an average neighborhood that was 4 percent Hispanic to one that was 10 percent Hispanic (see Table 4-3b).

Taken together, Tables 4-1 through 4-3 suggest that the rising Hispanic presence not only has forged new spatial imprints, but also has redrawn color lines by driving a wedge in the black–white residential dichotomy. However, it is important to note that we draw these inferences as descriptive rather than causal outcomes. Although black segregation declined in most metropolitan areas during the past two decades—in many places rather dramatically—their spatial integration was not due to increased contact with whites. Rather, blacks have, on average, reduced their contact with whites in Traditional Metros because their overall segregation has declined through greater contact with Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, Asians.11

Hispanics also experienced declining exposure to whites across all metropolitan types because they were more likely to share a neighborhood with coethnics in 2000 compared with 1980. In fact, over the past two decades, Hispanics grew more isolated in both Traditional Metros and New Hispanic Destinations. For example, in 2000 the average neighborhood composition for Hispanics in Traditional Metros was 49 percent Hispanic, 35 percent white, 9 percent black, and 8 percent other. However, in the New Hispanic Destinations and Other Large Metros, Hispanics experience much greater exposure to both whites and blacks.

The bewildering diversity of metropolitan transformation lends itself to several generalizations suggesting that the Hispanic dispersal was largely responsible for the ethno-racial reconfiguration of social space since 1980, but particularly during the 1990s. First, with very few exceptions, the largest metropolitan areas became more diverse over the past two decades, but the greatest ethno-racial diversification occurred during the 1990s and in the New Hispanic Destinations. Second, overall segregation levels were uniformly lower in 2000 compared with 1980, and the range of variation in average levels of spatial separation among metropolitan areas contracted as well.12 Third, immigration has accentuated Hispanic resegregation patterns, but not uniformly among metropolitan areas because this impact depends on the highly variable sizes of the black and Hispanic populations before the upsurge in migration. Finally, by any measure used, widespread declines in overall black segregation, but particularly in areas where the Hispanic presence rose dramatically, are consistent with the “buffering” hypothesis, namely, that Hispanics serve as a buffer between blacks and whites. This inference is buttressed by evidence that falling black segregation is associated with an increased probability of contact with Hispanics and other nonwhites, which is facilitated by the increased presence of these groups.

Home Ownership

Housing exerts a powerful influence on social integration through school choices and work opportunities (Massey and Denton, 1993). Home purchases represent not only a commitment to place, but also financial investments that usually appreciate in value. Simply put, for working-class and low-income families, home ownership represents the realization of the American dream. Housing costs are a significant barrier to ownership, particularly in the large immigrant gateway cities (Papademetrious and Ray, 2004). As dwelling costs escalate in the largest of the Traditional Metros, affordable housing and jobs lure Hispanics, and immigrants in particular, to New Hispanic Destinations (Kelley and Chavez, 2004).

Table 4-4 summarizes trends and differentials in homeownership rates since 1990 by metropolitan area type. Hispanic homeownership rates inched up from 40 to 44 percent in the top 100 metropolitan areas, but remained about 27 percentage points below those of non-Hispanic whites. Black ownership rates also rose modestly, remaining slightly above the rate for all Hispanics in both periods. Nativity differentials explain the slight black advantage because native-born Hispanic ownership rates were three points higher than blacks. Over time, the ownership differential between native-and foreign-born Hispanics narrowed slightly.

TABLE 4-4. Homeownership Rates by Race/Ethnicity and Metropolitan Area Type, 1990–2000 .


Homeownership Rates by Race/Ethnicity and Metropolitan Area Type, 1990–2000 .

Both the period-specific ownership rates and the pattern of change differ across metropolitan area types. Hispanic home ownership rates exceeded those of blacks in the Traditional Metros throughout the period, so that by 2000 nearly 2 in 5 blacks were homeowners in these metropolitan areas compared with 44 percent of Hispanics. Even foreign-born Hispanics were more likely than blacks to own homes in the Traditional Metros, although this was not so in 1990. A rather different pattern characterizes the New Destination Metros, where black and Hispanic homeownership rates were identical in 1990, about 43 percent, but diverged in 2000 as blacks ascended to home ownership at a faster pace than Hispanics. The nativity breakdown reveals that the diverging ownership rate between Hispanics and blacks in these metropolitan areas results from nativity differentials in ownership. In 2000 immigrants were less likely to own homes in the New Destination Metros than they did in 1990. Thus, by 2000, black homeownership rates in the New Hispanic Destinations were slightly higher than those of Hispanics. The Hispanic–white homeownership gap widened even more because the white homeownership rate rose faster during the 1990s.

School Segregation

Residential choices have profound implications for life chances because of the school quality they afford. Following the historic Brown versus Board of Education decision in 1954, court-ordered school desegregation spawned a spate of social science research that tracked progress toward integration across schools and districts (Black, 1992; Coleman et al., 1966). Although the Méndez versus Westminister School District decision actually predated and served as a testing ground for the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation (Ferg-Cadina, 2004), Hispanics were not even considered in school segregation litigation until 19 years after the Brown decision (Orfield and Lee, 2004). During the 1960s and 1970s, researchers primarily tracked trends in racial desegregation of schools and districts (Coleman et al., 1966; Taeuber, 1975; Taeuber, Sorensen, and Hollingsworth, 1975).

Ethnic diversification of inner-city urban schools after 1980 brought into sharp focus the growing concentration of Hispanic students (Orfield and Lee, 2004; Reardon and Yun, 2001). Although Hispanic youth are more integrated with whites compared with blacks (.58 versus .65 based on D), it is worrisome that both groups became more segregated during the 1990s, after districts were allowed to end their segregation plans (Logan et al., 2002). Social class segregation has also been on the rise (Logan et al., 2002).

The pernicious effects of school segregation stem from its divisive class underpinnings, namely that schools in which minorities are disproportionately concentrated are poorer, on average, than predominantly white schools (Tienda and Niu, 2004). Resource-poor schools have more unqualified teachers and offer more remedial courses and fewer advanced placement courses; hence their students—disproportionately black and Hispanic—fare poorly on standardized achievement tests (see Chapter 6). In 2000, black and Hispanic students attended segregated schools where two out of three students were poor or near poor. Orfield and Lee (2004) note that 88 percent of the hypersegregated minority schools (i.e., with less than 10 percent whites) also concentrated poor students, but equally segregated white schools were only 15 percent poor.

That many financially well-off nonminority parents enrolled their children in private schools or moved to suburban neighborhoods undermined the spirit of court-ordered desegregation (Coleman, 1990). But even as minority youth become more suburbanized, their chances of enrolling in segregated schools are significantly higher than white youth, which suggests that school and residential segregation have become less strongly coupled. In documenting the reversal of several decades of school integration in the South during the 1990s, Reardon and Yun (2003) observe that schools located in southern metropolitan counties were 40 percent less segregated than housing markets in 1990, but a decade later the schools were only 27 percent less segregated. Their findings are pertinent for Hispanic youth in light of the growing Hispanic dispersal to New Hispanic Destinations in the South. That is, as minority spatial integration evolves in suburban areas, segregation rises rather than drops, as one would expect (Reardon and Yun, 2001).

However, the components of change, namely within versus between district segregation, operate differently among minority groups. For blacks, increases in school segregation mainly derive from changes in residential segregation between districts. However for Hispanics (and Asians), higher levels of school segregation are more complex because ethno-racial separation of students derives from uneven allocation across as well as within districts. The concentration of Hispanic suburbanization in the South and the West, where large, countywide districts are the norm, exacerbates this complexity. Both state of residence and school districts within states contribute to highly differentiated levels of Hispanic school segregation, but uneven enrollment within districts is the major source of division between white and Hispanic students in specific states. That changes in school segregation of blacks and Hispanics were driven by very different dynamics has important implications for future patterns of social integration, particularly in light of their recent geographic scattering. So too does evidence that school resegregation was largely driven by the reversal of social integration policies rather than changes in residential location. Because school segregation along ethnic lines is highly correlated with social class and school quality, evidence of a weakened association between school and residential segregation implies that social integration of future cohorts, including the rapidly growing second generation, may be thwarted.

Labor Force Consequences of the Hispanic Dispersal

Perhaps even more than affordable housing and better schools, jobs are the main draw to the New Hispanic Destinations (Zúñiga and Hernández-León, 2004). Total labor force growth averaged 25 percent in the largest 100 metropolitan areas between 1980 and 2000 and a whopping 39 percent in the smaller metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.13 Uneven job growth across labor markets pulled Hispanics, and particularly the foreign-born, away from the traditional gateway cities toward rapidly growing southern labor markets. Labor force growth in the Traditional Metros was well above the 100-metropolitan-area average but slightly below the 34 percent employment growth registered in the New Hispanic Destinations. By contrast, in the large metropolitan areas with very small Hispanic populations (and very large black populations), the labor force contracted 4 percent over the two-decade period.

As Table 4-5 shows, immigration from Latin America fueled the changing ethno-racial composition of large urban labor markets, but smaller markets and nonmetropolitan areas also witnessed a trebling of their foreign-born population. In 1980, native-born Hispanic workers outnumbered their foreign-born counterparts in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, but by 2000 this scenario reversed, even as Hispanics doubled their labor force share from 7.5 to 14.5 percent of the total. Specifically in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, foreign-born Hispanics increased their labor force share from 3 to 8 percent of all workers, but the respective change for native-born Hispanics was far more modest—a mere 2.2 percentage points—which was nonetheless larger than the change witnessed by blacks. The white share of the labor force in the top 100 metropolitan areas contracted from 78 to 64 percent, although their absolute numbers remained constant because the total number of jobs increased.

TABLE 4-5. Ethno-Racial Composition of the Civilian Labor Force by Metropolitan Area Type, 1980–2000 .


Ethno-Racial Composition of the Civilian Labor Force by Metropolitan Area Type, 1980–2000 .

Changes in the ethno-racial composition of the workforce were most striking in the New Hispanic Destinations, largely owing to the volume of recent immigrants—both Hispanics and others—where few had settled before. In 1980, foreign-born Hispanics comprised less than 1 percent of all workers in the New Hispanic Destinations, but their labor force share reached 4 percent by 2000, surpassing their native-born counterparts. Representation of blacks in the labor force of these metropolitan areas rose about 2 percentage points, while the share of whites in the workforce plummeted 11 points over the period. Immigration from Latin America continued to transform the ethnic contours of the labor force in the Traditional Metros as well. In 1980, native and foreign-born Hispanics constituted 8 and 7 percent, respectively, of the workforce in these markets, but by 2000, the immigrant share overtook that of the U.S.-born by 3 percentage points. The black workforce share in the Traditional Metros remained steady over the period, but that of non-Hispanic whites dropped nearly 17 points.

Expansion of unskilled jobs in construction and in personal and repair services, which include dwelling maintenance and private household workers, is largely responsible for luring Hispanics, and particularly the foreign-born, to the New Hispanic Destinations. As Table 4-6 shows, about 1 in 5 Hispanic workers residing in the largest 100 metropolitan areas worked in these industries, but by 2000 nearly 1 in 3 Hispanics were employed in these two industries. A similar trend was found in the smaller metropolitan areas and nonmetropolitan areas, where over 28 percent of Hispanic workers found jobs in these two industries. By comparison, just over 1 in 5 of the total workforce in the largest metropolitan areas held construction or personal and repair service jobs in 2000. These industries expanded as a share of total employment in the largest metropolitan areas, rising from 18 to 22 percent of all jobs over the two decades, which not only favored the absorption of unskilled immigrants, but also, as these jobs became typed as Hispanic or immigrant jobs, contributed to group-specific labor demand (Tienda and Wilson, 1991).

TABLE 4-6. Industry Distribution for the Hispanic Civilian Labor Force by Metropolitan Area Type, 1980-2000.


Industry Distribution for the Hispanic Civilian Labor Force by Metropolitan Area Type, 1980-2000.

Changes in the industrial composition of employment in the New Hispanic Destinations favored the absorption of unskilled immigrant workers. Construction and personal and repair services, which absorb disproportionate shares of foreign-born workers, grew faster than the average for the largest metropolitan areas. In 2000, 36 percent of Hispanic workers in the New Hispanic Destinations were employed in either construction or personal and repair service industries, with over one quarter in the low-skill services alone. Two decades earlier, when the Hispanic workforce in the New Hispanic Destinations was one-fourth as large, only 21 percent worked in these two industries. Comparable shares employed in these two industries for the Traditional Metros were 20 and 30 percent in 1980 and 2000, respectively.

In the Traditional Metros, as Hispanic employment in nondurable manufacturing fell, from approximately 13 to 6 percent between 1980 and 2000, the representation of foreign-born Hispanic workers within the industry nearly doubled, rising from 15 to 29 percent (Table 4-7). That representation of native-born Hispanic workers in nondurable manufacturing remained steady suggests that this industry is becoming a niche for immigrant workers there. In the New Hispanic Destinations, the share of foreign-born Hispanics employed in nondurable manufacturing is considerably lower—about 7 percent in 2000—but the direction of change clearly indicates that the industry is becoming an employment niche for Hispanic immigrants here as well.

TABLE 4-7. Hispanic Composition of Employment by Industry Sectorand Metropolitan Area Type, 1980-2000.


Hispanic Composition of Employment by Industry Sectorand Metropolitan Area Type, 1980-2000.

A comparable trend toward concentration of Hispanic immigrants is evident in rapidly growing industries, notably the personal and repair services. In Traditional Metros, native and foreign-born Hispanics made up, respectively, 8 and 10 percent of employment in personal and repair services in 1980, but two decades later, these shares rose to 25 and 11 percent, respectively. Hispanic employment in these low-skill industries also surged in the New Hispanic Destinations, particularly for the foreign-born, which rose more than six-fold while the native-born share working in these industries only doubled. A similar change occurred in the smaller metropolitan areas and nonmetropolitan areas, where foreign-born Hispanics more than quadrupled their representation not only in the low-skilled personal and repair services and in construction, but also in agriculture and mining. The increasing concentration of Hispanic workers, and particularly recent immigrants, in rapidly growing unskilled industries, suggests both that the residential dispersal will continue well into the 21st century and possibly even gain momentum as high-tech and professional services employ unskilled workers for their labor needs.


The unprecedented Hispanic geographic scattering, which began during the 1970s and gained considerable momentum during the 1990s, is a significant agent of urban social transformation both because of its pace and the sheer number of persons and places involved. In addition to its potential for reconfiguring racially divided space, Hispanics' spatial scattering has broad ramifications for intergroup relations and the contours of ethnic stratification more generally.

Ethno-racial diversification of the largest 100 metropolitan areas during the 1980s and 1990s was accompanied by real declines in the spatial segregation of blacks, even as Hispanic segregation levels rose. However, changes in spatial separation differed appreciably across types of metropolitan areas. With one-third of all residents of Hispanic origin and 1 in 4 residents foreign-born, the Traditional Metros are among the most diverse, and they exhibit moderate segregation levels. Blacks and Hispanics are about equally segregated from other groups. Hispanics in these metropolitan areas average high levels of neighborhood isolation, which translates into relatively low exposure to blacks and Asians and only moderate contact with non-Hispanic whites. New Hispanic Destinations are experiencing rapid diversification and have moderate overall levels of segregation. Hispanics in these metropolitan areas are highly integrated with whites. The different spatial outcomes in these metropolitan areas compared with the Traditional Metros reflect several factors, including the pace of change, the large share of foreign-born among the newcomers, and the fact that blacks outnumber Hispanics by a 2:1 ratio.

The consequences of the Hispanic scattering for school segregation, homeownership, and employment are mixed because they are very much in flux. Immigration from Mexico, Central America, and South America not only was a driving force behind the Hispanic dispersal, but also transformed the ethno-racial composition of urban employment. In the largest 100 metropolitan areas, not only did the Hispanic share of total employment rise, but the foreign-born share also surpassed native-born workers in these urban areas. More generally, the Hispanic dispersal was accompanied by and facilitated changes in the industrial distribution of employment, as the expansion of construction and personal and repair services—industries viewed as immigrant niches in the Traditional Metros—allowed for the absorption of unskilled immigrant labor and lured unskilled immigrants to the New Hispanic Destinations.

Hispanic homeownership rates have risen slightly since 1980, but school segregation levels have been on the rise, particularly in the South—even without accounting for “soft” segregation. Whether high schools support one prom or several depends not only on settlement patterns, but also on whether black, Hispanic and white students interact socially within and beyond the school halls. Soft segregation as evidenced by Toombs County, Georgia, is not even broached by the vast literature about rising school segregation in the midst of increased residential diversity. Given the momentum of the Hispanic geographic dispersal and its broad reach across states and metropolitan areas, failure to reverse trends in resegregation could produce deleterious consequences for the well-being of the burgeoning second generation.

Although vestiges of long-standing regional concentration will persist for the foreseeable future, Hispanics' residential makeover is a potential harbinger of changes in intergroup relations. But much depends on how the newcomers are received in the nontraditional hubs. Many suburbanites welcome the new immigrants as hard-working people, but in other places the newcomers experience a backlash of discrimination. The consequences of Hispanics' changing spatial imprints will shape their futures in myriad ways, still to be played out and tallied even as they reshape the U.S. urban landscape.

Our descriptive foray into the contours and consequences of Hispanics' changing residential configuration cannot establish any causal connection with declines in racial segregation, but we do offer suggestive evidence to support the buffering hypothesis. Our work sets the stage for exploring the causal underpinnings of the changing urban ethno-racial landscape. In addition to developing a multivariate strategy to test this hypothesis in a causal framework, future research seeking to better understand the consequences of the Hispanics unprecedented geographic scattering should employ techniques that account for increasingly multiethnic character of the urban landscape, such as the entropy index.

APPENDIX TABLE A4-1. Racial/Ethnic Composition Measures: 100 Largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 1980–2000

APPENDIX TABLE A4-2. Hispanic Subgroup Composition by Metropolitan Area Type, 1980–2000


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Several counties in Georgia allow their students to plan their own proms independent of the school, in part to avoid problems arising from interracial dating. Hispanic students exercised their right to hold a separate prom because of what they described as a racist environment in the school and the ambiguity of choosing between the black and white proms. In 2004, whites made up just over half of the student population (56 percent); blacks just under one-third, and Hispanics the remainder (about 12 percent).


During the 1990s, blacks became more spatially integrated with whites in 240 of 265 metropolitan areas (Logan et al., 2004).


Most of the analysis that follows focuses on the largest 100 metropolitan areas, but this tabulation also reports smaller metropolitan areas as well as nonmetropolitan areas.


Appendix Table A4-1 provides the detail for all 100 places corresponding to Table 4-1. Our strata are loosely based on the four-fold typology of Hispanic places of Suro and Singer (2002), which we have simplified into three categories that we think best represent the new Hispanic growth. We opted not to use the typology because it conflates growth of small and large places with relative changes in population composition.


The GeoLytics Census CD Neighborhood Change Database lacks tables by birthplace for Hispanics. Therefore, we are unable to examine the growth of Hispanic immigrants across metropolitan area types. However, as documented for the 2000 period, the majority of Hispanics in the New Hispanic Destinations are recent arrivals.


In general, indices of dissimilarity below .3 are considered low, those between .3 and .6 are considered moderate, and those in excess of .6 are high.


Not everyone has found increasing segregation for Hispanics. For instance, Fischer (2003) found declining Hispanic segregation levels based on the 50 largest metropolitan areas plus 10 areas of high Hispanic concentration. The inconsistent conclusions of these two studies reflect differences in the sample of cities used (all cities versus the largest 60) and the methods. Fischer used the family income tables to calculate bivariate race and class multigroup entropy scores, while Iceland used the 100 percent person-level data to regress diversity on segregation measures.


Because the 1980 and 1990 data do not allow us to disaggregate the foreign-born into constituent race/ethnic groups, the foreign-born can be of any race/ethnicity. The foreign-born versus native entropy index therefore cannot be directly compared with the other entropy index calculations in Table 4-2 because there is no mutually exclusive relationship between the foreign-born measures and the other race/ethnic categorizations in the data.


This is the only year for which we have this detailed information at the tract level.


The correlation between the percentage increase in Hispanic population from 1980 to 2000 and the percentage increase in segregation from whites is .547, while the correlation between Hispanic population change and the percentage increase in segregation from all others is .490. Although both associations are positive and statistically significant, their magnitude suggests that other factors also contribute to increased segregation.


The correlation between black segregation and the percent Hispanic is −.372.


The standard deviation for Hispanics from all others for the 100 metropolitan areas declined from .10 in 1980 to .09 in 2000 and fell from .11 in 1980 to .09 in 2000 for the Hispanic versus white index.


We base these analyses on the total labor force, which includes the unemployed, but trends are similar when only looking at the employed portion of the labor force.

Copyright © 2006, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK19907


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