New York City is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in the world,(1) and is a global city, having strong economic ties to cities and regions in other parts of the world. Yet, of the fifty largest metropolitan regions in the country, New York City is the 4th most segregated. In fact, New York City is more segregated now than it was in 1910.(2) Separate is not equal. It ranks 10th in the country for concentrated poverty (40% or more of residents live at or below the federal poverty level),(3) 8th for concentrated Black poverty, and is number one among cities with the greatest number of extreme-poverty neighborhoods.(4)

This segregation is not a matter of choice. Policy matters. Federal, state and local policies create or bar opportunities for us to live together in vibrant, diverse, sustainable communities. Racial segregation in housing reflects not only a troubling history of racism and discriminatory policies, it represents a failure of government to recognize the role that race still plays in sorting us, even when policies are race neutral. It represents a failure to understand how our fate across communities within a metropolitan system is linked. If we allow whole communities of people to be poor and disconnected from opportunities like decent jobs, good schools and services, we harm the economic and social health of the entire region and even the state is at risk.

New York City has the potential to continue as one of the most prominent cities in the world. To maintain its global economic competitiveness and improve its quality of life it must promote meaningful diversity to create healthy, sustainable communities and residents who will be the human resources which drive its global competitiveness. Promoting meaningful diversity means connecting low-income communities and communities of color to structures of opportunity—good schools, good jobs, decent transportation, and good healthcare. Housing is the lynchpin to these opportunities.

(1) Peter J. Taylor and Robert E. Lang, The Brookings Institution, U.S. Cities in the ‘World City Network,’ Feb. 2005.

(2) Andrew Beveridge, Segregation, Mar. 1, 2002, at Gotham Gazette.

(3) Alan Berube and Bruce Katz, Katrina’s Window: Confronting Concentrated Poverty Across America, prepared for The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, Oct. 2005, (giving rates of concentrated poverty for the 50 largest metropolitan areas). Download PDF.

(4) Berube and Katz, supra note 3.

Leave a Reply