Residential Segregation - Black/White*
In the model
Use County Health Rankings’ model of health to explore the measures that influence how long and how well we live.
Index of dissimilarity where higher values indicate greater residential segregation between Black and white county residents. The 2022 County Health Rankings used data from 2016-2020 for this measure.
Most overtly discriminatory policies and practices promoting segregation, such as separate schools and separate seating on public transportation or in restaurants based on race, have been illegal for decades. However, segregation caused by structural, institutional, and individual racism still exists in many parts of the country. The removal of discriminatory policies and practices has impacted acts of racism, but has had little effect on structural racism, like residential segregation, resulting in lingering structural inequalities. Residential segregation is a key determinant of racial differences in socioeconomic mobility and, additionally, can create social and physical risks in residential environments that adversely affect health. Although this area of research is gaining interest, structural forms of racism and their relationship to health inequities remain under-studied.
Residential segregation remains prevalent in many areas of the country and may influence both personal and community well-being. Residential segregation of Black and white residents is considered a fundamental cause of health disparities in the United States and has been linked to poor health outcomes, including mortality, a wide variety of reproductive, infectious, and chronic diseases, and other adverse conditions.[2,3] Structural racism is also linked to poor-quality housing and disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. Individuals living in segregated neighborhoods often experience increased violence, reduced educational and employment opportunities, limited access to quality health care and restrictions to upward mobility.[3,4]
Data and methods
American Community Survey, 5-year estimates
The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities with a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered decennial census program. The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years, and publishes both one-year and five-year estimates. The County Health Rankings use American Community Survey data to obtain measures of social and economic factors.
Key Measure Methods
Residential Segregation - Black/White is an index
Racial/ethnic residential segregation refers to the degree to which two or more groups live separately from one another in a geographic area. The index of dissimilarity is a demographic measure of the evenness with which two groups (Black and white residents, in this case) are distributed across the component geographic areas (census tracts, in this case) that make up a larger area (counties, in this case).
The residential segregation index ranges from 0 (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation). The index score can be interpreted as the percentage of either Black or white residents that would have to move to different geographic areas in order to produce a distribution that matches that of the larger area.
Some data are suppressed
A missing value is reported for counties with Black population less than 100 in the time frame.
The measure of Residential Segregation - Black/White is only available for counties with a Black population of at least 100 persons (applies to approximately 65% of US counties).
This measure is a reflection of racial and not ethnic discrimination.
Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress
This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings covers a 5-year period. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single-year estimates from the resource included below.
Finding More Data
Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:
- Subcounty Area
The US Census Bureau provides population data at various geographies at https://data.census.gov/cedsci/. This measure can also be calculated at the census tract level using the population of non-white and white residents of blocks or block groups and census tracts.
 Williams DR, Collins C. Racial residential segregation: A fundamental cause of racial disparities in health. Public Health Reports. 2001;116(5):404-416.
 Gee GC, Ford CL. Structural racism and health inequities: Old issues, new directions. Du Bois Review. 2011;8(1):115-132.
 Kramer MR, Hogue CR. Is segregation bad for your health? Epidemiologic Reviews. 2009;31(1):178-194.
 Bailey ZD, Krieger N, Agénor M, et al. Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: Evidence and interventions. The Lancet. 2017;389(10077):1453-1463.