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Hypersegregation is a form of racial segregation that consists of the geographical grouping of racial groups. Most often, this occurs in cities where the residents of the inner city are African Americans and the suburbs surrounding this inner core are often European American residents [1]. The idea of hypersegregation gained credibility in 1989 due to the work of Douglas Massey and Nancy A. Denton and their studies of segregation among inner-city African-Americans. Hypersegregation is sometimes known as the “American Apartheid [2].”



The idea of hypersegregation began in the early twentieth century. African-Americans who moved to large cities often moved in to the inner-city in order to gain industrial jobs. The influx of new African-American residents caused many European American residents to move to the suburbs in a case of white flight. As industry began to move out of the inner-city, the African-American residents lost the stable jobs that had brought them to the area. Many were unable to leave the inner-city however, and they became increasingly poor. [1] This created the inner-city ghettos that make up the core of hypersegregation. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1968 banned discrimination in sale of homes, the norms set before the laws continue to perpetuate this hypersegregation[3]. The influx of Latino-Americans and Asian immigrants has contributed to hypersegregation, though current data shows that these groups do not experience the same discrimination as African-Americans[4]




One major impact that hypersegregation has on society in America is in the area of education. The segregation that many young African-Americans experience causes them undue stress which has been proven to undermine cognitive development. Even African-Americans from poor inner-cities that do attend universities continue to suffer academically due to the stress they suffer from having family and friends still in the poverty stricken inner cities[5]. Education is also used as a means to perpetuate hypersegregation. Real estate agents often implicitly use school racial composition as a way of enticing white buyers into the segregated ring surrounding the inner-city[6].


Another impact of hypersegregation can be found in the health of the residents of certain areas. Poorer inner-cities often lack the health care that is available in outside areas. That many inner-cities are so isolated from other parts of society also is a large contributor to the poor health often found in inner-city residents. The overcrowded living conditions in the inner-city caused by hypersegregation means that the spread of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, occurs much more frequently[7]. This is known as “epidemic injustice” because racial groups confined in a certain area are affected much more often than those living outside the given area. Poor inner-city residents also must contend with other factors that negatively effect health. Research has proven that in every major American city, hypersegregated blacks are far more likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of air toxins[8]. Daily exposure to this polluted air means that African-Americans living in these areas are at greater risk of disease.


One area where hypersegregation seems to have the greatest effect is in violence experienced by residents. The number of violent crimes in America in general has fallen. The number of murders in America fell 9% from the 1980’s to the 1990’s[9]. Despite this number, the crime rates in the hypersegregated inner-cities of America are rising. Young African-American men are eleven times more likely to be shot to death and nine times more likely to be murdered than their European American peers[9]. Poverty, high unemployment, and broken families, all factors usually found in hypersegregated inner-cities, all contribute significantly to the unequal levels of violence experienced by African-Americans. Research has proven that the more segregated the surrounding European American suburban ring is, the rate of violent crime in the inner-city will rise[9].

Current Trends

While hypersegregation and discrimination in America is still a problem, current research leaves some hope that things are beginning to change. The number of hypersegregated inner-cities is beginning to decline. By reviewing census data, Rima Wilkes and John Iceland found that nine metropolitan areas that had been hypersegregated in 1990 were not by 2000[10]. Only two new cities, Atlanta and Mobile, Alabama, became hypersegregated over the same time span[10]. This points towards a trend of greater integration across most of the United States.

Five Dimensions of Hypersegregation

These African Americans are considered to be hypersegregated because of all five dimensions of segregation being applied to them within these inner cities across America. These five dimensions are evenness, clustering, exposure, centralization and concentration[11 ], and are used to see just how segregated our country still is today.


Is the difference between the percentage of a minority in a particular part of a city, compared to the city as a whole.


Is the likelihood that a minority and a majority party will come in contact with one another. This dimension shows the exposure to other diversity groups while sharing the same neighborhoods.


The gathering of different minority groups into one certain space, this often leads to one big ghetto and the formation of hyperghettoization.


The number of people within a minority group that is located in the middle of an urban area. Often looked at as a percentage of a minority group living in the middle of a city compared to the rest of their individual group living elsewhere


This dimension relates to the actual amount of land a minority lives in within its particular city. The higher segregation is within that particular area, the smaller the amount of land a minority group will control.

African Americans living within America's inner cities must face all five dimensions above and still have to fight for equality and against discrimination[11 ].

See also


  1. ^ a b Hurst, C.E. Social Inequality: Forms, causes, and consequences (6th ed.). Pearson. Boston, 2007. ISBN 978-0205484362
  2. ^ Massey, D. S. and N. A. Denton. American Apartheid. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0674018204
  3. ^ Williams, D.R., Collins, C. Racial Residential Segregation: A fundamental cause of racial disparities in health. Public Health Report. Vol. 115. (Sept.-Oct. 2001). pp. 404-416
  4. ^ Wilkes, R., Iceland, J. Hypersegregation in the Twenty First Century, Demography. Vol 41. (Feb. 2004).
  5. ^ Charles, C.Z., Dinwiddie, G., Massey, D.S. The Continuing Consequences of Segregation: Family stress and college academic performance. Social Science Quarterly. Vol 85. (Dec. 2004), pp. 353-373
  6. ^ Institute on Race and Poverty. Examining the Relationship between Housing, Education, and Persistent Segregation: Final report. Report to McKnight Foundation, June 2007
  7. ^ Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores. Residential Segregation and the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases. Social Sciences & Medicine. Vol. 51. (Oct. 2000). pp. 1143-1161.
  8. ^ Lopez, R. Segregation and Black/White Differences in Exposure to Air Toxics in 1990. Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 110. (Apr. 2002). pp. 289-295.
  9. ^ a b c Massey, D.S. Getting Away with Murder: Segregation and violent crime in urban america. University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Vol. 143. (1995). pp. 1203.
  10. ^ a b Wilkes, R., Iceland, J. Hypersegregation in the Twenty First Century, Demography. Vol 41. (Feb. 2004). pp. 23
  11. ^ a b Massey, D.S., Denton, N. A. "Hypersegregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Black and Hispanic Segregation Along Five Dimensions", Demography. Vol. 26. Num 3. (August 1989) pp. 373-374. ISSN 0070-3370


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