Poverty and segregation: Baltimore versus Manhattan

I asked my cousin, who studies urban planning at Berkeley, the following (the question was provoked by my experiences with patients who come from desperate poverty here in Baltimore, something that I encountered only rarely among my Manhattan patients):
I keep comparing Balto. and NY. with regard to poverty and racial segregation. Can you point me to a good academic treatment of this topic? E.g.: Manhattan is segregated by income, obviously, but is it segregated by race when income is controlled for? And what is more influential in explaining Baltimore's neighborhood patterns, income or race?
I found her answer interesting.

It sounds like you're more interested in empirical evidence than theory (?), but I know more about the theory (and I think the theory is actually more interesting) so I'll start there. The classic debate about urban poverty, race, and segregation is represented by William Julius Wilson on one side, and Douglas Massey on the other. As I understand it, Wilson argues that segregation is at root a structural economic issue, not just a racial issue; Massey argues that segregation is caused primarily by racial discrimination. This debate is still simmering because - obviously - race and income segregation are so heavily intertwined that controlling for one of the other is exceedingly challenging, and even if you somehow distinguish between the two factors you still haven't really explained the black ghetto.

Wilson's first foray on this subject: The Truly Disadvantaged (1987) - also has a recent book out called More Than Just Race

Massey's response (with Denton): American Apartheid (1993)

Good survey of the literature on the causes of inner-city poverty: Chapple and Teitz, "The Causes of Inner-City Poverty: Eight Hypotheses in Search of Reality"

Empirical evidence: I don't know of a good overview or study that anyone considers definitive. A lot of the literature is historic (particularly now right before the new Census data is released). Rather to my surprise I did not find any interesting looking case studies about either Baltimore or Manhattan but maybe I didn't look hard enough.

I was interested to note that when I searched WorldCat and my favorite urban planning database (Urban Studies and Planning: A SAGE Full-Text Collection), most of the empirical studies seemed to be by public health or education folks. See two citations below that look interesting, but are old. The problem with using 1990 or even 2000 data is that we think so much as changed - i.e. the suburbanization of poverty, gentrification of the inner-city, immigration. If I run into anything else I'll let you know.

Coulton, Claudia J., Chow, Julian, Wang, Edward C., Su, Marilyn, Geographic Concentration of Affluence and Poverty in 100 Metropolitan Areas, 1990, Urban Affairs Review 1996 32: 186-216 (link)

Osypuk, Theresa L., Galea, Sandro, McArdle, Nancy, Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores, Quantifying Separate and Unequal: Racial-Ethnic Distributions of Neighborhood Poverty in Metropolitan America, Urban Affairs Review 2009 45:25-65 (link)


  1. You might try looking at Raudenbusch's (spelling?) work--he's an education researcher whose work crosses over into public health and poverty/policy--looks at the importance of neighborhood effects, using complex statistical modelling.

  2. Also--in the health world, if you use education as a proxy for income (which is imperfect), national studies on infant mortality consistently show rates for African-American women with graduate-level education that are equivalent to white women with only a high school education. That would point to race first...