Philadelphia has consistently been identifed as one of the most segregated cities in the country. Once this fact is stated, the analysis usually stops. We’re left to infer how living in communities which are racially segregated impacts the lives of residents. Here I try to explore this topic.

This is partially motivated by a conference I went to a few months ago. The presenters were discussing the ways in which historical, intentional segregation has influenced opportunities for subsequent generations. Inequities that we see today, racial inequities in particular, can largely be tied back to policies which ensured that people of color weren’t permitted to live in certain neighborhoods.

There seemed to be a lot of truth in this idea so I wanted to look into it futher. Since we know that Philly is a pretty segregated city, and the poverty rate is also one of the worst among large cities, I wanted to look to see how these things were connected. Are segregated communities of color experiencing higher rates of poverty?

The source code for this analysis is available here.

Lots of people live in segregated neighborhoods

First we have to get a handle on how segregated Philly actually is. Here, using data from the American Community Survey, I define racial segregation as census tracts in which 80% or more of residents are one race. There are other defintions, but this one is the most straightforward for analyazing differences among neighborhoods within a city.

The map below shows those segregated tracts. Overall 44% of Philadelphians live in segregated census tracts under this definition - a pretty staggering number.