• Alaka BasuAlaka Basu
      Alaka M. Basu is Professor, Development Sociology, Cornell University, and a member of the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
      Alessandro RosinaAlessandro Rosina
      Professor of Demography and Director, Center for Applied Statistics in Business and Economics, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
      Andrea BrandoliniAndrea Brandolini
      Head of Statistical Analysis Directorate, Bank of Italy
      Bruno MasquelierBruno Masquelier
      Professor of Demography, University of Louvain, Belgium
      Cheikh MbackéCheikh Mbacké
      Associate Professor, Sociology department, Laval University
      Cinzia ContiCinzia Conti
      Researcher at Istat, Head of Unit on Foreign Presence and Social Dynamics
      Corrado BonifaziCorrado Bonifazi
      Director of the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, National Research Council, Rome Italy
      Ernestina CoastErnestina Coast
      Associate Professor of Population Studies, London School of Economics
      Wang FengFeng Wang
      Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, USA, and Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai, China fwang(at)
      Francesco BillariFrancesco Billari
      Professor of Sociology and Demography, University of Oxford
      Gilles PisonGilles Pison
      Professor at Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle and Director of Research at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) (Paris)
      Gustavo De SantisGustavo De Santis
      Professor of Demography, University of Florence, Italy
      Jacques VallinJacques Vallin
      Emeritus Research Director at INED, Paris; Honorary President of IUSSP
      John KnodelJohn Knodel
      Research Professor Emeritus, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan (USA) and International staff, College of Populations Studies, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand)
      Letizia MencariniLetizia Mencarini
      Associate professor of Demography, Bocconi University - Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy & Collegio Carlo Alberto; P.I. ERC P.I. ERC project n. 313617 (2013-2018) SWELLFER
      Letizia TanturriLetizia Tanturri
      Associate Professor of Demography, University of Padova, Italy
      Massimo livi BacciMassimo livi Bacci
      Emeritus Professor of Demography, University of Florence, Italy
      Monica Das GuptaMonica Das Gupta
      Research Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland, USA
      Paula Miranda-RibeiroPaula Miranda-Ribeiro
      Professor, Demography Department and Cedeplar, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil.
      Peter McDonaldPeter McDonald
      Professor of Demography in the Australian National University. Honorary President of IUSSP and winner of the Irene B. Taeuber Award
      Roberto ImpicciatoreRoberto Impicciatore
      Università di Bologna.
      Salvatore StrozzaSalvatore Strozza
      Professor of Demography, University Federico II, Naples (Italy)
      Stefano MolinaStefano Molina
      Senior Program Officer, Giovanni Agnelli Foundation, Italy
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    • N-IUSSP is a new IUSSP news magazine, which will disseminate scientific findings from demographic research carried out all over the world. The practical implications of current trends, the risks and potentialities of emerging situations, the pros and cons of specific laws are discussed in rigorous but plain language.

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Are U.S. whites ‘hunkering down’ in racially-diverse cities and neighborhoods?
Les blancs américains préfèrent-ils le “vivre entre soi” ?

Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, Michael C. Taquino
U.S.A. white and black people

America’s new racial diversity has upended conventional empirical approaches to residential segregation based on simple binary notions of the color line: white–black, white–nonwhite, or black–nonblack. Multiculturalism, pluralism, and racial hierarchy are now expressed in the new language of majority-minority, super diversity (i.e., heightened diversity within minority or immigrant populations), and global neighborhoods (i.e., those with significant representations of whites, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and other minority populations). This raises an important question: Are U.S. whites increasingly living in racially diverse communities? And do they live in racially diverse blocks?

In recent times, the growth of racially diverse U.S. cities and suburbs has been unprecedented (Lee et al. 2014; Parisi et al. 2015). However, according to Putnam (2007, p. 149), “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.” That is, U.S. whites may live together with other minorities in the same communities but at the same time live apart from them with mostly white neighbors. Is this really the case?

Whites and minorities living in same cities and suburbs

As far back as Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (1944), changing race relations and integration arguably have depended less on racial and ethnic minorities (i.e., what they do) than on white reactions to racial and ethnic change. Here, we shift the question by asking whether whites are more likely than in the past both to live in racially diverse places and to have minority neighbors living nearby. To answer this question, we rely mainly on the standardized entropy score E, which ranges between 0 (complete homogeneity, i.e. complete segregation) and 100 (highest possible presence of all racial groups in all places), keeping into account the proportion of people of the various racial groups: in other words, the index is comparable, over time and across places. (For the details, please see Lichter, Parisi, and Taquino 2017.)

As shown in Table 1, whites on average lived in central cities with a mean entropy score E of 66.0 in 2010, up from 48.4 in 1990. In other words, they were significantly less segregated than they were 20 years before. Schermata 2017-10-16 alle 08.12.54Moreover, the variation in white exposure to diversity in central cities has converged over the past two decades to a point where racial differences in E—at least within central cities—are comparatively small, ranging from 65.3 among blacks to 70.9 among Hispanics in 2010. These findings contrast with the estimates for 1990, when whites were living in the least diverse (i.e., most segregated) central cities (48.4). These patterns of racial convergence were also apparent in suburban areas. Whites, by far, were living in the least diverse suburbs in 1990 (E = 26.5). By 2010, however, whites lived in suburban places with E scores of 46.4 on average, compared with 48.3 among blacks and 50.3 among Hispanics.

Clearly, at the place level—in both cities and suburbs—whites are increasingly exposed to other racial and ethnic populations in much the same way as nonwhites overall. This, as we document in Lichter, Parisi, and Taquino (2017), is largely a function of broader metropolitan demographic and economic characteristics. That is, metropolitan-level characteristics rather than individual characteristics (e.g., income) play the dominant role in explaining individual exposure to diverse central cities. Large-scale demographic change has swamped individual volition.

Whites and minorities living on the same blocks

However, an important question remains: Are U.S. whites—especially those exposed to rapidly diversifying places—increasingly exposed to racial and ethnic minority neighbors living next door? Table 2 provides information on whether whites in diverse places in 2010 actually have neighbors who are racial minorities. Schermata 2017-10-16 alle 08.16.29Overall, these data show that white householders in the PSID (Panel Study of Income Dynamics) on average live on city blocks that are 31.9 percent nonwhite. As expected, these percentages are higher in principal cities (41.2 percent) than in suburban communities (25.9 percent).

No evidence of hunkering down appears over time. In fact, the reverse is true: net of individual and metropolitan characteristics, the proximity of whites to racial minorities living on the same block increased throughout the 20-year study period in both cities and suburban places (data shown in Lichter, Parisi, and Taquino, 2017).

Implications for minority integration

Racial residential segregation is the linchpin of America’s system of racial and ethnic stratification and inequality (Massey 2016). Our analyses showed that rising diversity is a dominant demographic trend that is spatially widespread, affecting virtually all segments of U.S. society. Growing diversity at the place level—in cities and suburbs—has involved most demographic and economic segments of the U.S. white population over the past 20 years. And, more significantly, it seemingly has trumped most behavioral explanations that emphasize invasion-and-succession processes (i.e., white flight). The commonplace idea of whites clustering together or barricading themselves against a new invasion of racial and ethnic minorities seems, on its face, to be an exaggeration of demographic reality.

Still, most whites today live on all-white or predominantly white blocks. Living with minority neighbors may be increasingly commonplace among U.S. whites, but it is far from a universal experience. Spatial integration among America’s white population is unfolding differently at multiple levels of geography—across metropolitan areas and between and within cities and suburbs. Racial segregation and integration have taken on new forms.


Lee, Barrett A., John Iceland, and Chad R. Farrell. 2014. “Is ethnoracial residential integration on the rise? Evidence from metropolitan and micropolitan America since 1980,” in Diversity and Disparities: America Enters a New Century (p. 415–56), edited by J. Logan. Russell Sage Foundation.

Lichter, Daniel T., Domenico Parisi, and Michael C. Taquino. 2017. “Together but Apart: Do US Whites Live in Racially Diverse Cities and Neighborhoods?” Population and Development Review 43(2): 229–255.

Massey, Douglas S. 2016. “Residential segregation is the linchpin of racial stratification,” City & Community 15: 4–7.

Myrdal, Gunnar. 1944. An American Dilemma. Harper and Bros.

Putnam, Robert D. 2007. “E pluribus unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize lecture,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30: 137–174.










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