Racial residential segregation has decreased moderately in the city of Sacramento over the last decade, a new report has found, an unexpected bright spot given how pervasive the systemic issue is in the United States.
Sacramento is one of only two cities among the 119 cities researchers reviewed across the country that have moved from the “High Segregation” to “Low-Medium Segregation” category since 2010, with the other city being Aurora, Colo.
The finding comes from an analysis by UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, originally published this summer and updated now with 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data. The city of Sacramento had previously been categorized as having high segregation, based on 2019 U.S. Census Bureau survey data.
While the United States overall is becoming more diverse, racial residential segregation remains rampant: About 54% of metropolitan areas were more segregated in 2020 compared to 1990, the researchers found. It’s a smaller percentage than initial estimates based on 2019 census survey data, but troubling nonetheless, said assistant director at the Othering & Belonging Institute Stephen Menendian.
Racial residential segregation, the physical separation and sorting of people into particular areas on the basis of race, is a crucial way of understanding what resources and environments people have access to, Menendian said. How segregated a neighborhood is, particularly those primarily made up of communities of color, will be a defining factor in whether residents have access to good schools, safe drinking water, economic opportunity, health care and more.
“If you’re born Black in America, you’re far more likely to be born in higher crime environments, have contaminated, unsafe drinking water, have poor or underperforming schools, and an anemic or suffering tax base,” Menendian said. “And if you’re white, it’s the opposite of those things.”
The Sacramento region is now more diverse than ever before, with the four-county metro region majority nonwhite for the first time. Still, researchers found that while the city of Sacramento is less segregated, segregation remains high in the Sacramento-Arden Arcade-Roseville metro area.
Over the last decade, parts of the Central City, the Pocket and Land Park have become less segregated, researchers found. Across Sacramento County, Arden-Arcade and Rancho Cordova have also notably become more racially integrated, particularly with more Asian and multi-racial residents moving in.
But racial residential segregation has also grown in parts of Sacramento, or have remained steadfast, particularly in neighborhoods like Del Paso Heights, South Natomas, Meadowview, Oak Park, and the Fruitridge area. Many of those areas, historically under resourced and with more residents of color, have been identified by the state as places where residents tend to have a lower quality of life.
Menendian said that segregation in Sacramento likely decreased because areas where segregation was already low or moderate have now become racially integrated, rather than areas of high segregation becoming less segregated.
Researchers identified only two cities they studied across the United States as being racially integrated — Port St. Lucia, Fla. and Colorado Springs, Colo. — but said it’s likely because they are home to military bases that tend to draw “people from every corner of society together, and foster integration in ways that generally do not occur otherwise.”
Though segregation remains widespread in most parts of the country, there are ways to encourage more racial integration in cities and regions, Menendian said, such as building more affordable housing in higher opportunity areas that are especially segregated white communities.
“If your goal is to reduce at a measurable level segregation ... then what you have to do is deliberate policymaking,” he said. “If you just sort of do the safe things as they are, the structural patterns will reinforce themselves.”