Is segregation really the fault of some systematic government policy or adverse social action?

Letters to the Editor

March 3, 2011 — With regards to the segregation mapping at the block group level, I am not sure what you are trying to get at, but it sounds like a firm stance that segregation is the fault of some systematic government policy or adverse social action.

That is, the article takes tone that this phenomenon is all about purposeful suppression of minorities. There is a convenient lack of mention about self-selection bias where minority group members prefer to live amongst other members. There is a wealth of research showing that segregation continues more and more due to a preference to live with their own race despite minorities moving into different economic classes or having options to escape impoverished areas that are segregated. If the maps showed a relationship with poverty or inequality, that would be of importance and something to take action on.

True, there is still bias towards minorities that leads to segregation, but that is changing. There is no context in this article whatsoever. This leaves an analyst wanting. The press salivating. Policy wonks ready to charge forward without thinking. To me this is very irresponsible mapping. It fans the flames to take action against what exactly? Are you going to encourage the crafting of policies that force minorities to not live with each other up to a certain threshold so that segregation will be eliminated? Are you going to encourage minorities to not live with each other? How are you going to sell that?

I need to be very clear here that I recognize the larger problem in segregation is still strongly associated with systematic policy and other bias against minorities, both historic and current. But you need to recognize the growing trend toward self-selection and put your analysis in a context that draws out the difference. As said, you could put that in the context of concentrations of minorities and poverty or inequality.

Then again, if you are all activists, then you don’t care about being responsible, reasonable, and objective.

Ron Wilson (Washington, DC)

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