LIMA —John Logan takes a pragmatist’s view in studying the black/white divide in America’s communities.
“Every place is a little bit terrible from an African-American’s point of view,” he said. “Lima’s not special.”
The Brown University sociologist directs the US2010 Project, a research initiative that uses U.S. Census data to track recent social and economic trends in our cities and suburbs. At The Lima News’ request, he used the project’s online database to see whether Lima is, as 24/7 Wall St. found, one of the 10 worst cities for black Americans. 24/7 is an internet financial research company that is used by news organizations and portals such as USA Today and MSN Money.
Allen County, it turns out — especially the city of Lima — was more racially integrated than many of the other communities on the 24/7 Wall St. list.
The study by Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island, uses an Index of Dissimilarity to measure segregation. It captures the degree to which two groups live in different census tracts. A number of 60 or higher is considered very high.
Milwaukee, which tops the 24/7 Wall St. list of Worst Cities for Black Americans, along with Detroit had an index value of 79.6. Not much had changed since 1980, when the number was 83.9. Peoria, Illinois, No. 6 on the 24.7 Wall St. list, was at 69.
Lima, though, showed more moderate segregation that has eased over those same 25 years.
The US2010 Project’s analysis found Allen County’s dissimilarity index was 51.6, down from 63.4 in 1980. For the city of Lima itself, it was at very low 28.5 in 2004-2006, down from 54.1 in 1980, meaning that the city’s residential neighborhoods have become pretty integrated.
“It’s probably a sign that racial disparities of all kinds are lessening in Lima,” he wrote in an e-mail, “improving opportunities for black families and children. In the long run that is healthy for the whole community.”
It’s an advantage that Lima has over other Midwest cities. However, Logan said, the same doesn’t hold true for the rest of Allen County.
“This value of 51.6 (in Allen County) is below the national average of 58 or 59, but it’s still high,” he said. “It means blacks are living in neighborhoods that are twice as black as the region is.”
Those neighborhoods, he said, are likely to be more disadvantaged than white neighborhoods. In a 2014 study, Logan found that even when blacks move to the suburbs, where schools, parks and other public services are often better, racial divisions and disadvantages follow.
He pulled up Census data from 2004-2009 show that the average black family in Allen County lived in a neighborhood with a 66 percent higher share of poor people as compared to the average white family’s neighborhood.
This persistent black/white divide holds true even for affluent blacks.
In Allen County, black families earning $75,000 or more lived in communities where 20.4 percent of their neighbors were poor. White families earning that same amount had a “poverty exposure” of just 10.9 percent.
Even low-income whites had it better. Those earning $40,000 or less had a poverty exposure of 16.2 percent.
This means the average low-income white family was living in a better community, with less poverty and all the problems that poverty brings, than affluent black families.
“Why do (affluent black families in Allen County) live in neighborhoods with so many poor people?” Logan mused. “It’s the most surprising piece. It’s not people’s income. Race is having an effect in where people live.”
He belives this is due to an unseen, segregationist hand in the housing market. It’s against the law for real estate agents to steer people to homes based on race. It is also illegal for banks to make race-based lending decisions, but Logan said housing segregation is more subtle now than in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s an unwelcoming stare during an open house or a cold shoulder at a neighborhood grocery store or it’s having your child be the only black child in an elementary school.
“It’s partly related to the history of how places (like Lima) were settled,” said Logan, “and it’s clearly still having an effect today.”
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or Twitter, @lima_eddings.