Washington — Segregation persisted in big cities over the past decade amid the nation's growing racial and ethnic diversity, said a report that provoked calls for stronger enforcement of laws against housing discrimination.
Distinct living patterns continued to hold sway in large urban centers where most of America's blacks, Hispanics and Asians are located, said the report released Tuesday by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.
With forecasts suggesting even greater diversity in the future, advocacy groups urged federal and local governments to step up enforcement of fair-housing regulations and upgrade education in minority neighborhoods.
Blacks and whites were most likely to be segregated in the Detroit metropolitan area, the study said, while whites, Hispanics and Asians were most likely to live separately in New York.
It is "troubling at a time of massive demographic change, when the need for Americans to communicate across racial and ethnic lines is greater than ever before, that we are less likely than ever to live in diverse neighborhoods," said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy organization.
Recently released Census 2000 data showed that Hispanic, black and Asian population growth far outpaced that of whites over the 1990s. The Hispanic population drew virtually even with non-Hispanic blacks as the nation's largest minority group.
The Census Bureau considers "Hispanic" an ethnicity, not a race; therefore, Hispanics can be of any race.
Data from the once-a-decade head count also showed more minorities moving from cities and into suburbs. Many of those suburbs were becoming just as racially divided as urban areas, said State University of New York at Albany professor John Logan, who wrote the report.
Logan noted that among the country's top 50 metropolitan areas, many of the least segregated ones for blacks were in the South. Many blacks had moved from that region early last century to escape racial discrimination.