American Segregation

This is an Interactive Web application by Vox

American Segregation, mapped at day and night

Jhon Nunez

University of Illinois

CS424 spring 2019

Project Link: click here

Vox is an American news and opinions website owned by Vox Media

In their policy and politics section, you will find this interactive visualization that was designed by Alvin Chang, who is a senior reporter and data journalist.

Alvin Chang's work also includes a few other successful new articles such as: The real reason Boeing's new plane crashed twice, A better way to tax the rich, and many more.

I will be presenting one of his latest reporting: American segregation, mapped at day and night

In this country, we have always known that there was many neighborhoods who's demographic was more homogeneously one race of people.

Researchers Matthew Hall, John Iceland, and Youngmin Yi wanted to look into where people lived and where they worked.

They created this visualization that mainly looks at the where different ethnic groups primarily want to live or work.

What Is the Purpose?

The purpose of this application is to visualize how different racial groups behave. What are the averages when it comes to going to work and going back home. Vox Media wanted to see if a particular racial group behaved a certain way as opposed to a different racial group. If one interacts with this application, one would find that there are patterns of behavior for each racial group. The researchers published a paper on racial segregation. They used this tool to understand where racial groups were living and where they works. They wanted to understand why segregation has characterized urban life in the United States. This application was created based on their research.

Researches wrote:

" The goal of our study is to shine a light on these issues by providing a detailed accounting of white residential segregation over three decades. We examine how such segregation varies according to the way we define the white population and we test whether the group threat perspective has become less salient over time as we might expect. In short, our analysis is guided by the following research questions:

  1. What were the patterns and trends in white segregation over the 1980 to 2010 period?
  2. How sensitive are these patterns to the manner in which we define “whites”?
  3. To what extent is the variation in white segregation patterns consistent with the predictions of the group threat perspective over the time period? "

(White Residential Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Conceptual Issues, Patterns, and Trends from the US Census)

How it works

This visualization is designed for users to interact with the map and select which city, which map they would like to visualize. User's also have the ability to select between visualizing where a group works and where they primarily live.

City selection:

The visualization allows us to select the city in the US that we would like to visualize.

The list is organized by cities in alphabetical order starting with Abilene, TX and ending with Yuma, AZ.

You are only able to search for a city by knowing which city you'd like to visualize rather than selecting a particular state

When a city is selected, the map will be updated and the user will be able to move on to a different selection

The next bar allows the user to select which racial group they would like to visualize.

The user could select White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic.

Upon Selection the map will update

The user also has the ability to see where this particular racial group primarily lives or where they primarily work

Upon selection, the user could compare where a racial group works and where they tend to live

On the top-right of the interactive map, The user has the ability to see a legend that describes the concentration of a particular group.

The darker the color, the more people of a particular group are concentrated in that area.

The map also show's a stacked bar. The higher the bar in that area, the more people of that racial group are concentrated in the area.


Racial Separation at Home and Work: Segregation in Residential and Workplace Settings

The research for this paper was done by Youngmin Yi and Matthew Hall and John Iceland.

Cornell University and Pennsylvania State University

They write: Racial segregation has long characterized urban life in the U.S., with research consistently showing that minority groups occupy different social spaces than whites. While past scholarship has focused largely on residential contexts, a considerable portion of individuals’ days is spent outside of the home and existing research misses the potential for cross-group contact in non-residential contexts. In this paper, we assess the levels and patterns of segregation in the environments where people spend their workday, for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian workers. Using commuting data from the Census Transportation Planning Package, we construct measures of racial composition in “workhoods” and compare metropolitan-level segregation in places of work and home. Results indicate that workhood segregation is substantially lower than residential segregation. Black-white segregation in work settings is, for example, half the level of black-white segregation in residential settings. Multivariate analyses also reveal that workhood segregation, for all groups, is higher in metropolitan areas with greater residential segregation. For Hispanic workers, areas with larger immigrant populations have higher workhood segregation, and for blacks, workhood segregation is lower in metropolitan areas with large military populations. Our findings also consistently show that black and Hispanic workhood segregation is lower in areas where minority groups are more occupationally disadvantaged.

To read their full Paper: Research paper link

These researchers hoped to get a fuller understanding of what people from different racial groups do.

They tracked down people in different neighborhoods to understand where people preferred to work and where they preferred to live.

One of their finding was that white people preferred to work around slightly more people of color than when they're in their home neighborhoods. Their research also primarily showed that for people of color, they also preferred to live among their own racial group and were mainly exposed to white people at work.


Data was collected from the 1980-2010 decennial censuses in the United States

Who was this made for?

This tool was designed and created for the purpose of educating people on the average behavior of racial groups in the US. A user studying race relations or and anthropologist would find this tool particularly useful. A historical researcher or psychologist can also find this tool useful for research and educational purposes. The creators designed this app for information and education.

Vox Article

The Vox article begins with a video of their researcg

This video includes a few key things that they want their viewer's to understand.

It starts with an old video from which 3 white women are being interviewed saying that they moved into that particular neighborhood because it was a "White Only" and there were no other races. They also mentioned that they would not be there if there were too many colored people.

The footage was from Levittown, Pennsylvania shortly after World War II.

The video also introduces Bill Levitt, who was an American real-estate developer from Brooklyn New York.

Bill Levitt served in the United States Navy as a lieutenant in the Seabess. After he returned from the war, he saw a need for affordable housing for returning veterans. Specially after America's post-war prosperity and baby boom had created a housing crisis. He became a housing developer to combat this issue.

Bill Levitt named his developments Levittowns, and he developed a mass-production system to build them.

His nickname became "The King of Suburbia" and "Inventor of the Suburb"

At his height, he was completing one suburban house every 16 minutes. His success is compared to Henry Ford's automobile assembly line. He is known as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time magazine.

Bill Levitt was also known for building segregated housing.

His suburbs explicitly promised a White - Only neighborhood.

The contract included:


One reason why this was acceptable in this time was because the government subsidized it.


One line says:

"The presence of socially or racially inharmonious groups in a neighborhood tens to lessen or destroy owner-occupancy appeal"

The government at the time suggested that they did not want inharmonious groups because the property value of the homes would lower.

He refused to integrate his developments. He refused to sell his homes to blacks. His sales contract also forbade the resale of properties to blacks. He fought legal challenges in New Jersey courts until the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

The article also shows a visual representation of how White families moved out of the cities after Brown V. Board in 1954.

The Vox article the presented the following statistics:

  • All racial groups prefer to live with their own
    • This is specially very obvious with White, percentage-wise they are the biggest homogeneous group when it comes to housing.
  • When it comes to Black, Hispanic, and Asian workers.
    • They divide is a bit even in the work place, but they too prefer to live among their own

What does this research show us?

Do most racial groups prefer living among their own? or this their anything that can allow us to understand why we have these results?

Matthew Hall published these finding and concluded that nearly every community in the US is diverse during the day and more segregated at night.

Vox believes that this shows us a a glimpse of the past. They believe that because of this is due to housing segregation from the past

This graph is a representation of how segregation declined after the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Vox also published this line chart that illustrates the difference in racial groups

(I personally believe that the line chart is not very clear with what it intends to illustrate)

They concluded that workplaces are more diverse, but only because managers are janitors where of different racial backgrounds. The article they published suggests that the residential segregation segregation we see today is a projection of past events.


We will analyze data visualization with the city of Chicago selected

If we analyze the city centers, they are pretty diverse.

The visualization to the right shows that in the day, the racial composition of people in the workplace is diverse

At night, the racial composition changes. People primarily divide into their racial groups.

When selecting White, we can see that people in this racial group tend to leave the city center after work

We can see the same trend when selecting people of the Black racial group

At night, they tend to clump into specific areas of the city. These are the poorer areas of the city.

We see the same patterns in Washington DC, Detroit MI, and Philadelphia, PA

These maps primarily show how people after work tend to be more segregated


  • Where do people of a specific racial group work?
  • Where do people of a specific racial group live?
  • Why is does the map look this way?
  • What benefits are there to living in or out of this city? and why are most people leaving the city after work?
  • Is there a reason why certain racial groups live together and others don't?
  • What historical context is there for understanding this result?


A user is able to log into the visualization and enter the city they are trying to visualize. By entering the Racial group and 'Where they are at', they are able to visualize the behavior of this group. This tool allows them to see what this particular group is doing on average. They can find the answers by observing the patterns of the city selected. The Vox article also answers some questions on their website and give a bit more historical context.

What works & What needs Improvement

What works

  • The visualization map is very responsive and interactive
  • The tabs are placed in clear positions and they are easy to understand
  • When a city is selected, the map clearly identifies the area of the selected city
  • The colors are color-bind friendly

What needs Improvement

  • Looking up a City is not very well done (If you're looking for a city, you have to know the city name)
    • Perhaps if there was a way to select a state, then a city some cities would be easier to find
  • The stacked up bars could get really messy if they are really high
    • Perhaps if there was a chart and table that can give us numbers it would be better
  • If there was a way to understand the numbers better (Adding line graphs)
  • If we were able to click on specific area (Cannot interact with the bars on the map)
  • A way to select and compare two cities (It would be nice to compare the data of two cities)


American policies engineered our segregated homes and diverse work spaces.

We may be exposed to integrated work spaces but tend to live very segregated lives.

I think that this map is made very well. I love the interactivity and the visual representation of peoples and concentration

I also think that they should have included a way to compare two cities at the same time

One thing I found interesting was this following chart.

I wonder why Asians are not included in this graphic?

Does Vox have an agenda it's trying to convey?