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Rooted in Public Policy, Residential Segregation Remains a Persistent Problem

Friday, January 25, 2019
Charles Davidson | Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Nikitra Bailey

American residential neighborhoods remain highly segregated by race, and that is no accident.

In fact, it is a result of "a state-sponsored system of segregation" set in motion by New Deal federal housing programs designed to expand but also racially partition the nation's housing stock, said Richard Rothstein, author of the 2017 book The Color of Law, a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

As Rothstein pointed out in an interview, the discriminatory policies were not hidden. Through intentional actions of federal, state, and local governments across the country, African Americans from the 1930s through the 1960s were essentially forced into dense urban residential areas "where community life was impossible, where access to jobs and social services was more difficult, and where supervision of adolescents and even a semblance of community policing was impractical," Rothstein said.