Quantifying separate and unequal: Racial-Ethnic distributions of neighborhood poverty in metropolitan America

Theresa L. Osypuk, Sandro Galea, Nancy McArdle, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


Researchers measuring racial inequality of neighborhood environment across metropolitan areas have traditionally used segregation measures; yet such measures are limited for incorporating a third axis of information, including neighborhood opportunity. Using Census 2000 tract-level data for the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, the authors introduce the interquartile-range overlap statistic to summarize the substantial separation of entire distributions of neighborhood environments between racial groups. They find that neighborhood poverty distributions for minorities overlap only 27%, compared to the distributions for Whites. Furthermore, the separation of racial groups into neighborhoods of differing poverty rates is strongly correlated with racial residential segregation. The overlap statistic provides a straightforward, policy-relevant metric for monitoring progress toward achieving more equal environments of neighborhood opportunity space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-65
Number of pages41
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 19 2009



  • Concentrated poverty
  • Geography of opportunity
  • Neighborhood
  • Neighborhood poverty
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Racial inequality
  • Residential segregation

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