Local Media Struggles to Understand Segregation

Councilor Bud WilliamsSpringfield City Councilor Bud Williams is to thank for broaching a tough topic: Racial segregation and inequality in the Pioneer Valley. But local media outlets Masslive and WFCR/NEPR are struggling to get the central facts straight.

Masslive initially reported that Springfield was ranked number one in segregation nationally. Their source was Councilor Williams, who was referring to a PVPC draft study, which refers to a University of Michigan Study, which is based on 2010 Census data, which refers to all 692,942 people in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties as simply “Springfield.” As a result, Springfield takes the blame for a problem that is both local and regional.

Income Inequality In the Pioneer ValleyWhile segregation and inequality persist within the city, it is even more profound in the context of the quintessential White flight suburbs that surround it, and the relatively affluent Five Colleges Area to the north, behind the “Tofu Curtain.” Listen to Mass Commission Against Discrimination’s Amaad Rivera’s comments below.

The second major omission was that the region is only number one nationally for segregation when considering Latino-White segregation. In fact, we are twenty-two on the Black-White index, and fifty-seven on the Asian-White index.

Masslive was very receptive when we pointed out these omissions, and the article has since been corrected.

WFCR/NEPR’s story sort of explained segregation as a regional issue, but the significant differences among Latino, Black, and Asian segregation were overlooked entirely.

Demograhics (2010 Census)The set of PVPC studies that are still in draft form includes one that names racial and economic segregation regionally as a consequence of housing and zoning policy, and another on land use which considers income inequality. Interestingly, the inequality ranking (GINI) puts the region’s poorest and wealthiest communities together at the top (see list above). Exceptional affluence and exceptional poverty both produce inequality.

While the housing plan also includes a snapshot of the region’s demographics, we just released a more detailed (and prettier) picture of demographics in Hampden County in the context of our nascent Opportunity Index Coalition.