The Persistence of Segregation in the 21st Century

Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2018

Date Written: February 20, 2018


I address whether, in the fifty years since the Kerner Commission and the Fair Housing Act, the US has made progress in reducing racial segregation. As a point of departure, I critique a recent report that claimed to document the “end of the segregated century.” I argue that while black-white segregation has declined, this report measured segregation in a way that overstated the extent of the changes. Further, I argue that looking at racial segregation in isolation ignores other demographic changes that have acted to magnify the impact of racial segregation. For example, economic segregation has been increasing in recent decades and interacts with racial segregation to produce high-poverty ghettos. Another change is the geographic restructuring of metropolitan areas, so that segregation is now increasingly organized by municipalities rather than by neighborhoods, with implications for access to publicly-funded amenities such as quality schooling. Finally, I show that there is a life-cycle aspect of segregation, so that children enrolled in school are more segregated than adults, which undercuts the impact of the small declines in segregation that have occurred. I conclude that racial segregation needs to be understood in terms of a broader set of factors that, operating together, limit spatial access to opportunity.

Keywords: racial segregation, economic segregation, inequality, geography of opportunity

JEL Classification: J15, R23, D63

Suggested Citation

Jargowsky, Paul A., The Persistence of Segregation in the 21st Century (February 20, 2018). Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Paul A. Jargowsky (Contact Author)

Rutgers-Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102
United States

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