Why are African Americans better off in San Diego than St. Louis? Fair housingThis might also have something to do with the median home price in San Diego being $618,000 versus $128,000 in St. Louis. Not surprisingly, St. Louis is 49.2% black while San Diego is 6.7% black.
By RICHARD H. SANDER
APR 15, 2018 | 4:05 AM
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 — whose 50th anniversary we marked last week — seemed a monumental achievement at the time, a capstone to the historic measures of the 1960s that sought to transform race relations in America. Today, however, many civil rights activists view it largely as a failure because black/white housing segregation remains the norm in too much of urban America.
But something central has been widely overlooked. Fair-housing laws did bring about substantial change in a significant number of American cities. And a large body of careful research shows that in these areas, integration has had remarkable effects in narrowing racial gaps.
Metropolitan black/white segregation is commonly measured by an “index of dissimilarity,” which describes, on a scale of 0 to 100, the proportion of blacks who would need to move to another block to achieve the same geographic distribution in a metro area as whites (or vice versa). A score of 100 corresponds to complete segregation, and 0 corresponds to complete integration. Many major metro areas — New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis — have indices above 75 or even 80. But a significant number of other metro areas do much better: San Diego, Seattle, San Antonio and Nashville, for example, have indices between 50 and 65.
Compelling evidence shows that lower housing segregation itself is a prime driver of the narrowing racial gaps.
On nearly every dimension, social and economic conditions are far better for African Americans in moderate- versus high-segregation cities, in San Diego rather than, say, St. Louis.
Similarly, people in general tend to be even better off in San Diego’s suburb of Rancho Santa Fe (where Bill Gates lives in winter), with its median home price of $2,975,000, than in San Diego.
Moreover, a fair percentage of blacks whose families have lived in San Diego for a couple of generations or more got there through the military (same for San Antonio), and blacks with military ties tend to do better, for the usual selection and treatment reasons.
In general, blacks tend to do better in relatively conservative sunbelt metropolises without too many other blacks around. It’s not clear whether there’s much going on besides selection, but it’s possible that blacks do better in environments of less welfare, more jobs, cheaper housing, and more Christianity.