Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

by Joseph Carroll, Gallup Poll Assistant Editor

South reports highest proportion of blacks; West reports highest number of Hispanics, recent immigrants

Gallup's annual update on race relations* suggests that Americans generally live in areas populated with people from their own racial or ethnic backgrounds. More than 8 in 10 non-Hispanic whites say they live in areas where there are many whites, while at least 6 in 10 blacks and Hispanics say many people of their respective backgrounds live in their neighborhoods. Few whites, blacks, or Hispanics say they live in areas highly populated by recent immigrants or Asians.

Racial Differences?

The poll, conducted June 6-25, asked Americans how many people of various races and ethnic backgrounds lived in their areas -- "many, some, only a few, or none." The results to this question among non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Hispanics suggest that these different groups tend to live in areas with relatively few of those from different backgrounds.

Three main conclusions:

  1. Non-Hispanic whites are most likely to live in areas in which there are large numbers of their own race. Eighty-six percent live in areas in which there are "many" whites. By contrast, only 66% of blacks live in areas in which there are many blacks, and only 61% of Hispanics live in areas in which there are many Hispanics.

    Looked at differently, these data suggest that a third or more of blacks and Hispanics live in areas in which their race or ethnic group is in the decided minority.

  2. Whites generally tend to live in areas in which there are less likely to be substantial concentrations of blacks and Hispanics. Only about one in three non-Hispanic whites say that there are many blacks or Hispanics in their neighborhoods. By way of contrast, 45% of blacks and 52% of Hispanics say that there are many whites in their neighborhoods.

  3. Only relatively small percentages of members of all three of these groups say that there are many Asians or recent immigrants in their neighborhoods. The highest concentration of recent immigrants exists in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Regional Differences?

When looking at these results among all U.S. adults, the data show some vast differences by regions across the country -- in the South, respondents tend to say there are many blacks, while in the West, areas tend to be highly populated by Hispanics and recent immigrants. Residents in the West are also slightly less likely than people elsewhere to say there are many whites living around them.

  • Roughly 8 in 10 Americans living in the East, Midwest, and South say there are many whites in their neighborhoods, while slightly more than two in three respondents in the West say this.
  • Nearly half of those living in the South (49%) say there are many blacks in their areas. This compares with about a third of those in the East, roughly one in four Midwesterners, and but fewer than one in five respondents in the West.
  • A majority of people living in the West (55%) say there are many Hispanics in their areas. This percentage is much lower in the South (39%), and is even lower in the Midwest (21%) and East (20%).
  • A third of respondents in the West say there are many recent immigrants in their areas, while only about 1 in 10 respondents living elsewhere offer this response.
  • The data show only minor regional differences in the percentage saying there are many Asians in their area, though Southerners are least likely to say this.

These distinctions mirror what the U.S. Census reported in 2000. The Census showed that 24.3% of Western residents are Hispanic, more than twice the proportion in the East (9.8%), Midwest (4.9%), and South (11.6%). According to the Census, 18.9% of Southern residents are black, a significantly higher proportion than in the East (11.4%), Midwest (10.1%), and West (4.9%). The proportion of whites is lowest in the West (58.4%) compared with 73.4% in the East, 81.4% Midwest, and 65.8% South.

Differences by Household Income Levels?

Gallup also finds differences by household income -- Americans living in higher-income households are somewhat more likely than are those living in lower-income households to say there are many Asians in their areas. The reported concentration of whites is much greater among those living in middle- and upper-income households than lower-income households. There is also a slight tendency for lower-income households to say there are many Hispanics living around them. The data show essentially no differences by household income levels for the percentage saying there are many blacks or recent immigrants living in their areas.

As the table illustrates, 85% of adults earning $75,000 per year or more say there are many whites living in their areas, while only 61% of those whose income is less than $30,000 per year offer this response. Similarly, 19% of adults in high-income households say there are many Asians in their areas, while 9% of those in lower-income households say this.

Four in 10 adults earning less than $30,000 per year say there are many Hispanics in their areas. This compares with 28% of those living in households with incomes of $75,000 or more per year.

Bottom Line

This data suggests that Americans tend to live in neighborhoods largely populated by people of similar racial or ethnic backgrounds -- 86% of non-Hispanic whites, 66% of blacks, and 61% of Hispanics report living in areas where there are many people from their own backgrounds. These results also show the South reports the highest proportion of blacks, while the West reports the highest number of Hispanics and recent immigrants. Higher-income households report a higher proportion of whites and Asians in their areas than those in lower-income households, while lower-income households report more Hispanics in their areas than those in higher-income households.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,264 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 6-25, 2005, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Results for the sample of 807 non-Hispanic whites, aged 18 and older, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 6-25, 2005. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

Results for the sample of 802 blacks, aged 18 and older, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 6-25, 2005. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Results for the sample of 511 Hispanics, aged 18 and older, are based on telephone interviews, conducted June 6-25, 2005. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. (181 out of the 511 interviews with Hispanics were conducted in Spanish).

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