United States


Unless there is complete integration, the average racial composition of neighborhoods where whites live differs from the average racial composition of neighborhoods lived in by blacks, by Hispanics, or by other groups. To examine this, we calculate the average racial composition of neighborhoods experienced by members of each racial group. These are sometimes referred to as "exposure indices". This is because they show the exposure a given race group experiences with members of their own and each other race (percentaged to 100) in an average neighborhood of the city (or metropolitan area) being examined.


The dissimilarity index is the most commonly used measure of segregation between two groups, reflecting their relative distributions across neighborhoods within a city or metropolitan area. It can range in value from 0, indicating complete integration, to 100, indicating complete segregation. In most cities and metro areas, however, the values are somewhere between those extremes.

Although it is possible to average the data and to identify some regional trends, it is important to note that there is no single way that residential segregation functions in America. One can find instances of both high and low levels of segregation for every combination of racial groups.