The Black and White Issue of Housing: Residential Segregation in the US

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It can be easy to think that people choose where they live and therefore the separation of races in residential areas is by choice, but it wasn’t everyone’s choice. Segregation due to discrimination in housing has been around since African Americans were first able to purchase homes in 1868; it continues to be a problem because they were not able to accumulate home equity in the 1900s, and now that they are allowed to buy houses, those in good condition are far out of price range.

From Great Migration to Public Housing

During the industrial age and the Great Migration, from 1916 to 1970, many non-white Americans moved from the south to urban areas and found themselves stuck in public housing. This housing. also known as temporary war housing, was created due to WW2’s effect on the economy; at this time, housing was racially, but also economically segregated. When banks began to use the practice of redlining, refusing to give mortgage or increasing prices to keep out specific racial groups, African Americans were still stuck in public war housing though better housing was being built for whites. This quote was used to describe the conditions of Black housing at the time:

insufficient, overcrowded, and unsound housing which generally cost the inhabitant far more than similar housing outside the area would [have] cost a white buyer”
-The Federal Fair housing Requirements

The government was also a major player in residential segregation; in 1945 they recruited mass production developers to create a new Richmond suburb of 700 houses with a requirement that “none [of the houses] be sold to an African American” (Rothstein). Previously, The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provided that all citizens should have the same rights ‘to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property” (Haas). Though seeming very progressive for its time, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) actually went out of their way to financially enforce housing discrimination. Many advocates for fair housing, and civil rights in general, faced many obstacles such as being ignored or simply shut down despite their societal ranking (President Johnson). In the government as well as in court, cases based on civil rights laws were frequently lost; even those that won were ignored in supporting future cases (Reitman v Mulkey case). Later, President Johnson issued a Fair housing Act of 1968, inspired by the death of MLK. It was more enforced than the 1866 act and allowed actual repercussions for real estate agents discriminating in property sales. A major complication of the 1968 act was though, its timing; at 1866, the enforcement of the law would have allowed for the process of residential integration to begin as soon as the 14th amendment passed, however, at 1968 residential segregation was already deeply implemented in domestic communities.

Atlanta Black Star

To read more about the history of residential segregation click here!

Yes, Segregation in 2019

Did You Know?

  1. 23% of Black families earn a middle class income.
  2. 4% of these Blacks live in integrated/predominately white communities.
  3. Young African Americans are 10 times as likely to live in poor neighborhoods as young whites.
  4. The average black wealth is less than 10% of white’s wealth.
  5. Children who’s parents were born in ghettos have a 74% chance of also living there.
  6. 75% of low-income housing is built in already poor neighborhoods.
  7. Less than 50% of housing discrimination cases are reported.


Low-income Housing Tax Credit is an organization implemented by the government to combat segregation. Though they allow for housing to be affordable, this doesn’t help integration because it only aids low-income family’s “ability to rent apartments in minority areas where economic opportunity is scarce… ” (Rothstein).

Section 8

The Housing Choice Vouchers, or Section 8, is another government association which provides financial help to renters so they can afford better housing. While this can be helpful for those in the lowest income percentile to have housing, the voucher amount is usually too low to support rentals out of poor neighborhoods. This is because HUD (Housing and Urban Development) has a set price that the rent must be at or below in order to receive a voucher. When coupled with the fact that Low-Housing builders are incentivized to build in already poor and segregated neighborhoods, it means that Section 8 isn’t helping integration at all. In extreme cases, vouchers are only helpful if people move into more
segregated neighborhoods which happened in 2010 when over half of voucher receivers did.

This table depicts the effects of Blacks missing out on the accumulation of wealth through homeownership and how that compares to Whites who were allowed to participate in the housing market of the 1900s.

White ConditionBlack Condition
able to weather medical emergenciesfacing education and employment disadvantages
easier to pay for collegelack of local commercial facilities (university, hospital, etc.)
can retire without dependency on childrenexperience crime and social disorder
can aid family experiencing hard timeshave structural deficiencies

can endure brief periods of joblessness without fear of losing a home or going hungry

live with crumbling stairwells and leaking ceilings
Due to arguments stating that growing up in poor neighborhoods effect a child’s brain, Sharkey, a NYU sociologist, decided to study this phenomenon through the measurement of IQ. This cartoon by Alex Chang depicts his results (Chang, Alvin)

An integration organization known as the Inclusive Communities Project brought up a case against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in 2015, with the head of the Texas department, Betsy Julian, claiming that the state’s distribution of tax credit ensured that low-income housing was built in poorer neighborhoods without access to good schools, jobs, or opportunities. In the end, the court ruled that the 1968 Fair Housing Act also prohibited policies that seemed race-neutral but had a disproportionate effect on minorities. “[A]dvocates argue [this ruling was] essential to fighting housing discrimination and patterns of segregation that have persisted in the United States for decades” (Badger, 2015).
Also in 2015, The Obama Administration issued a rule based on The Fair Housing Act, forcing communities to evaluate their patterns of racial and economic segregation and make plans to address these problems. If ignored, they risk losing funding. Both HUD president Ben Carson and President Trump protested against this due to their belief in Social Darwinism, a sort of economic survival of the fittest.

To read more about the current state of residential segregation click here!

Combating Segregation

Integrated housing creates foundations for improvements in all race relations allowing cultural boundaries to be crossed within a community. Given this, I felt it crucial that effective efforts were found or created in order to end the segregation. There are two types I was able to come up with, on the micro-level: those that an everyday citizen would be able to achieve, and those on the macro-level: solutions that would have to be done by politicians.


  • Creating more unionized opposition to building low-income housing in minority populated neighborhoods; this is how many other communities keep out low-income housing.
  • Speak up about housing discrimination; this allows it to be recognized as a problem that politicians will be incentivized to support, helping integration proceed on a macro-level as well.
  • Not supporting Donald Trump in 2020; he actively worked to dismantle “putting the nation on a path to more integrated communities and expanded access to opportunity for our most vulnerable populations” when protesting Obama’s Fair Housing Clause which was mentioned earlier on.
  • Joining, donating, or learning more about supportive organizations such as the NAACP and The Inclusive Communities Project.
  • Avoiding “White Flight”, a term that describes when Whites move out of a minority populated area; white flight decreases property value and therefore disincentivizes integration further.


  • Make the price of land in minority communities equal to that of land in white communities. This makes it equally appealing to organizations to build in ghettos as in suburbs. Once low-income housing is more integrated, the Section 8 vouchers will be more effective.
  • Enforce The Obama Administration’s rule of evaluating cities pattern of segregation; provides opportunity of integration to be enforced at a state and federal level.

To view my Works Cited click here!

Share this project
  1. April 29, 2019 by Annika Klaus


    Firstly, your project looks amazing and I loved the way you formatted your page! This is such an important subject you are talking about because I have learnt about racial segregation throughout most of middle school and high school. I remember learning about the “Separate, but equal” law that was passed in the states in middle school and how it was separate, but not equal at all. When I first read your paper and I got to the header when you said “Yes, Segregation in 2019” I thought to myself there could be no way because up until this point i though we as a society were slowly getting stronger and united and not judging people because of their skin colour. The facts you pointed out such as “23% of Black families earn a middle class income.” or “Young African Americans are 10 times as likely to live in poor neighborhoods as young whites.” or “The average black wealth is less than 10% of white’s wealth.” These statistics were absolutely shocking to me because society has still been unable to resolve this growing problem. We recently learnt in class about a place in New York that contains some of the wealthiest people and the poorest living right across the street from each other. The poorer kids growing up in what is called “The projects” are all African-American or Latino and go to a school with terrible education, while a few blocks down lies a school where mainly caucasian kids go with top education and resources, but the projects kids simply can’t afford it. Many of the homes in the project are also being torn down to create space for newer and more expensive homes. These homes have been the homes of many families for a very long time, they can’t afford any other housing and their jobs are very close to the homes. A quote I remember from the documentary we watched was “Who will you have to clean your streets, extinguish your fires and teach your kids” because many of the adults who live in the projects have those jobs and forcing them to relocate way further would create problems, because who would take these low paying jobs. Overall, your project was very interesting to me and thank you so much for sharing!

  2. April 29, 2019 by Sophia Levin


    I really appreciate your site! The Micro solutions make it easy for all people to take action. I think it is insane that only 4% of black households live in integrated communities and is really shows how flawed our housing system truly is. Your research on Section 8 is so thorough and helpful and the use of bullet points helps to concisely express the basic facts of the issue. Are you planning to take any further steps of action after this project? This was a very informative and helpful site thank you so much!

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