The report finds that public housing is located in areas of widely varying characteristics, although these neighborhoods tend to be comparatively poor and racially isolated. Approximately one-quarter of all public housing residents live in low-poverty areas; a slightly higher percentage live in concentrated poverty (where the tract poverty rate is 40 percent or higher). Almost 30 percent of public housing residents live in tracts where fewer than 10 percent of the population is African American, but more than 40 percent live in majority African American neighborhoods.
While racial segregation in public housing persists, there is some evidence that it has declined over the past two decades. Eleven percent of all sampled public housing agencies (PHAs) were classified as highly segregated in 1993. Segregation was most severe among the largest PHAs; however, the average index of segregation among the Nation's largest PHAs showed a decrease of 6 percent between 1977 and 1993. According to HUD's analysis, the most accurate predictors of segregation are those associated with the demography and racial distribution of the surrounding metropolitan region rather than with the characteristics of the PHA.
Yet, despite the slow easing of racial segregation in public housing, the report found that most African-American public housing residents continue to live in disproportionately minority neighborhoods, while white public housing residents usually live in predominantly white neigborhoods. These communities tend to be further differentiated by income, as a majority of African-American public housing residents live in poverty-concentrated neighborhoods, while their white counterparts live in more affluent areas.
But the picture is considerably more complex than even these generalities suggest. For example, racial disparities in neighborhood location are much lower among residents of public housing for the elderly -- who tend to live in areas with lower levels of poverty, regardless of race -- than for residents of family developments. However, even in family developments in lower poverty tracts, 25 -- 37 percent of residents are African American.
The Location and Racial Composition of Public Housing in the United States offers a timely statistical road through the rhetoric to explore the diverse geographic and socioeconomic settings in which the Nation's public housing residents live.