Social & Education Policy

Racial Segregation in Iowa's Metro Areas, 1990 - 2010

Seiple, E.; Zitzner, A.; Anthony, J.; Dusil, R.; Lehman, K.; Martin, G.


 Racial segregation in neighborhoods and communities has wide-ranging negative effects that have been well-documented. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 proscribe segregation by race and ethnicity; there are policies and regulations in place at national, state, and local levels to prevent and punish racial segregation. Yet residential racial segregation persists in housing markets across the nation.

Today the United States is more ethnically and racially diverse than at any point in the nation’s history. Yet according to a 2012 CBS report, “segregation appears to be on the rise despite an overall increase in the number of racially and ethnically-mixed neighborhoods.” Diversity is not synonymous with integration. This trend towards a more diverse yet more divided society is disconcerting.

Over the last two decades, the state of Iowa and its urban areas have become remarkably more diverse. In 1990, 96.6% of the state’s population was White. By 2010, this proportion had decreased to  91.3%. Social equity in Iowa depends on first understanding how increasing diversity within Iowa translates into the relative segregation or integration of its urban communities. Does segregation persist alongside increased racial and ethnic diversity in the state?

The goal of this report is to document, describe, and discuss residential racial segregation from 1990  to 2010 in Iowa’s major metropolitan areas: Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs-Omaha, Quad Cities, Des Moines, Iowa City, Sioux City, and Waterloo-Cedar Falls (see Figure 1). Residential racial segregation is measured in a variety of ways. In this report, we measured it by using the Index of Dissimilarity  (or IoD). To perform IoD calculations for Iowa’s urban centers, we used the geographic definition for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (referred to as MSA or metro) employed by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

We report on Black-White segregation as well as segregation between Hispanics and Whites. Census data for Hispanics includes multiple racial groups; while many Hispanics are White, this report focuses on segregation trends between non-White Hispanics and Whites to capture the measure of  dissimilarity based on racial difference. So in discussion of demographics and segregation within Iowa metros, the term Hispanic refers to non-White Hispanics.

Data used in the analysis is publicly available from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the Census  Bureau provides this information at different levels of geography (such as the census tract level and census block group level) we used data at the smallest geographic level – census block group level – to enable depiction of segregation trends closest to the level of neighborhoods and communities. Accompanying maps illustrate racial concentration by census block group for 1990-2010.