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The most segregated cities in North America

The Martin Prosperity Institute here in Toronto just released a new research study called Segregated City: The Geography of Economic Segregation in America’s Metros

The report looks at the physical sorting and separation of advantaged and disadvantaged groups within cities. And it did so across 70,000+ Census tracts in the US and in terms of 3 different dimensions: income, education, and occupation.

Here are the most segregated “large metros” in the US:


Table Source: MPI

And here are some of their broader findings – taken verbatim from page 9 of the study (click here for the full report):

Economic segregation is positively associated with population size and density. It is also positively correlated to two other sets of factors that follow from metro size and density: how people commute to work and the breakdown of liberal versus conservative voters.

Economic segregation tends to be more intensive in high-tech, knowledge-based metros. It is positively correlated with high-tech industry, the creative class share of the workforce, and the share of college grads. In addition, it is associated with two key indicators of diversity, the share of the population that is gay or foreign-born, which tend to coincide with larger, denser and more knowledge-based metros.

Economic segregation is connected to the overall affluence of metros, with positive correlations to average metro wages, income, and economic output per capita.

Race factors in as well. Economic segregation is positively associated with the share of population that is black, Latino, or Asian, and negatively associated with the share that is white.

Economic segregation is associated with income inequality and even more so than with wage inequality. Its effects appear to compound those of economic inequality and may well be more socially and economically deleterious than inequality alone.

The research team also looked at how Canada’s 3 largest metros – Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver – compare to those in the US in terms of segregation. 

The finding was that Canadian cities are overall less segregated than US cities, but that it should still be considered an area of concern. The most segregated of Canada’s 3 largest metros was found to be Montreal.


Image Source: MPI

My view is that our economy is going through a profound shift right now. We’re transitioning from the industrial age to the information age. And in its wake, we’re seeing a number of disruptions, one of which appears to be rising inequality and segregation. 

That’s not to say that I think this transition is a bad thing (I don’t think it is), but I do think we should be carefully considering and designing our future.

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