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The Stubborn Whiteness of White Neighborhoods

Even in the diversifying big cities, the average white person’s neighborhood is whiter than the metropolitan area he or she is in.
A home in a white suburb of Philadelphia in 1959. The town denied a repair permit and condemned the structure after a black homeowner purchased it.
A home in a white suburb of Philadelphia in 1959. The town denied a repair permit and condemned the structure after a black homeowner purchased it. Sam Myers/AP

People of color have driven almost all the population growth in the largest U.S. metros since 2000. But, if you live in the kind of neighborhoods where the average white person lives, you might not have noticed.

That’s according to a fresh analysis of newly released Census data by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. In it, Frey describes how Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and other minority groups filtered into the 100 largest metro areas in the last 15 years, settling down in their cities and the suburbs. Overall, these places became less white—from 64 percent in 2000 to 56 percent, per 2011 to 2015 estimates. But that influx of diversity only made a modest dent in those neighborhoods most likely to have white residents: Their share dropped from 79 percent in 2000 (which was high to begin with) to a 72 percent in recent years. In other words, white neighborhoods stubbornly remain whiter than the larger areas they’re in.