Poor whites live in more affluent neighborhoods than middle-class blacks and Latinos

Poor whites tend to live in more affluent neighborhoods than do middle- class blacks and Latinos, a situation that leaves those minorities more likely to contend with weaker schools, higher crime and greater social problems, according to a new study.

“It’s relatively well known that black families on average live in poorer neighborhoods, but a lot of people presume that’s simply because black families are poorer,” said Sean Reardon, one of the study’s authors. “But if that were all there was to it, you would find poor whites living in the same kinds of neighborhoods as poor blacks.”

The disparities seem to be rooted in three factors: the huge wealth gap separating racial groups. On average blacks have less than eight cents for every dollar held by whites, meaning that even if black families have high incomes they are likely not to have large sums for for things like home down payments and are more likely to carry heavy debt. The trend is similar for Hispanics.

In addition, at least some blacks and Hispanics as well as whites prefer to live in neighborhoods where their race or ethnicity predominates, Reardon said.

Although the problem is troubling a fix is not obvious. Asked what policy makers could to break the pattern, Reardon said: “That’s a tricky question.”

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