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Race, Place, and Opportunity: Racial Change and Segregation in the San Diego Metropolitan Area: 1990 - 2000

Authors: Nancy McArdle
Date Published: May 01, 2002

The future of the San Diego area is inexorably linked to the well-being of its minority populations, most strongly in the cities and inner-suburbs, but increasingly throughout the region. While moderately-high levels of racial segregation characterize the City, recent trends raise the specter that this pattern may be duplicated in growing suburbs, especially for Latinos.
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Minorities contributed all of metro San Diego’s net population growth during the 1990s, but stubbornly high levels of segregation for blacks in the City and increasing segregation rates for Latinos metro-wide suggest that much remains to be done to insure that these populations have equal access to all communities. With the number of whites declining in both the City of San Diego and in the suburbs, Latinos have been the overwhelming driver of population growth, and Asians have also seen dramatic rates of increase. (This report presents data for Latinos, who may be of any race, and the non-Latino members of the white, black, and Asian/Pacific Islander racial groups.) At current rates of change, the San Diego metro area will be “majority-minority” in a decade--already the situation for the school-age population and in the City overall. The question now looms: will metro San Diego, currently in its last decade with a white majority, move forcefully towards insuring equal residential access to all communities, regardless of race or ethnicity?

Minority increases have been especially strong in the suburbs, where two thirds of total population growth occurred. Latinos now constitute over a quarter of suburban residents, up from a fifth in 1990. In fact, Latinos make up a larger share of the population in the suburbs than they do in the City of San Diego. It is especially disturbing, therefore, that the largest increases in overall segregation are for suburban Latinos. Indeed, while whites comprise 60 percent of the total suburban population, the average Latino suburbanite lives in a census tract that is just 45 percent white, down from 58 percent white in 1990. Latino/white segregation has also increased in the City, and is now on par with black/white levels.

The black population grew much more slowly than other minority groups, barely maintaining its share of the overall population. Black growth has been disproportionately strong in the suburbs, increasing there by four times the number of black residents added in the City. Indeed, blacks now comprise a smaller share of the City than they did in 1990. Black/white segregation has improved only minimally and remains especially high in the City. Several areas with high black population shares in the southeastern part of the City have experienced black decline over the decade, as these census tracts became more Latino.

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