December 5, 2003

Residential segregation in San Diego is increasing

By Emmanuelle Le Texier

The Harvard Civil Rights Project has released a report untitled “Race, Place and Opportunity: Racial Change and Segregation in the San Diego Metropolitan Area: 1990-2000”. Analyzing data from the 1990 and 2000 Census, the report states that during the last ten years “high levels of segregation for blacks in the City and increasing segregation rates for Latinos metro-wide suggest that much remains to be done to insure that these populations have equal access to all communities”. San Diego is considered to have moderate-high levels of racial segregation in the City and moderate ones in the suburbs. Nevertheless, segregation of children has notably increased, especially between whites and Latinos. The new generation of Latino children might be the first affected by this process, because racial and residential segregation have profound impacts on access to equal education, health, employment but also political and social opportunities.

The 2000 Census shows that San Diego metro (that ranks 17 in total population in the U.S.) was 65% white in 1990, and 55% white in 2000. In numbers, the white population has declined by almost 50,000 people. Latinos form the largest minority group, and raised their share of the total population from one fifth to over one fourth. Almost 84% of Latinos in San Diego are of Mexican origin. Asian population experiences the second fastest growth. Half of the Asian population is of Filipino origin, followed by smaller numbers of Vietnamese and Chinese. Finally, black population only experienced a small increase and comprises 6.2% of the population. These changing are mainly due to three components: domestic migration from/to San Diego from/to other parts of the U.S.; foreign immigration; and natural increase, the more determinant factor that added 267,000 to the population over the decade.

Latinos in San Diego metro constitute over 25% of suburban residents, more than the share in the City. Latinos are residentially segregated both in the City and in the suburbs, and this segregation has deepened in the last decade. In fact, Latino/white segregation in the City increased and is now at a similar level to black/white segregation. This level is even higher when considering the suburban trends. In 1990, Latinos in suburbs lived in census tracts 58% white, whereas in 2000, they live in census tracts 45% white. This situation is also true for blacks/white, and in a lower level for Asians/white segregation.

Furthermore, what are both striking and highly problematic are the reports’ conclusions about child population’s segregation. If we consider the school-age population in San Diego, then the city can already be considered as a “majority-minority city” because two thirds of the children are minorities. But the segregation rates are higher for them than for the adult population, especially between Latinos and white, which levels are equal to blacks/white segregation. White and Asian children now face less exposure to Latino children in the tracts where they live.

In summary, when the future of San Diego metro is linked to the children well-being, especially the minority population who comprises two thirds of the school-age population, there is still much to be done to ensure that racial segregation does not translate into unequal access to education, fair housing, possibility to settle in different areas of the city, economic and political opportunities. Policy-makers and City officials are facing an increasing challenge to insure the same future to its new generation, regardless of race of ethnicity.

The report is available at the following address: http://www.civil rightsproject.harvard.edu

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