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Project Milwaukee
Springing from conversations with concerned community members, WUWM journalists developed Project Milwaukee -- in-depth reporting on vital issues in the region. Each Project Milwaukee consists of WUWM News reporters and Lake Effect producers teaming up to create a series of interviews and reports on a specific topic culminating in a public forum or live broadcast.WUWM tackles subjects of importance to southeastern Wisconsin by focusing on issues that warrant extensive coverage. The topics chosen are based on concerns we've heard from residents and community leaders.WUWM hopes that our coverage helps to further the understanding of broad, significant subjects, and encourages additional debate in the community.WUWM's Project Milwaukee. Our region. Our future.------------------------------------------------------------------PROJECT MILWAUKEE SERIES ARCHIVEGreat Lakes, Troubled Waters - May 2019With our proximity to Lake Michigan and world-class water research, why don't we have clean water?To Protect And Serve - March 2018Police, Community & A Time of TransitionSegregation Matters - March 2017Innovation - How Do We Compete? - February 2016Black Men in Prison - November 2013Why are so many Wisconsinites behind bars? And, what are the costs?Power Switch - June 2013The Promise and Reality of Green Energy in WisconsinHelp Wanted - October 2012Uncovering the Truth Behind Wisconsin's Skills GapState of Upheaval - December 2011Southern Connections - June 2011Cultivating a Regional CorridorWhat's On Our Plate? - November 2010The Impact of Wisconsin's Food EconomyBarriers to Achievement in MPS - June 2010The Currency of Water - December 2009Black & White - June 2009Race Relations in MilwaukeeWise Today, Well Tomorrow? - November 2008Youth Violence - June 2008Creating a Vibrant Regional Economy - November 2007

Measuring Black/White Segregation in Metro Milwaukee

A Racial Dot Map from 2013 shows clear a delineation between racial groups in the Milwaukee area.

The assertion that Milwaukee is currently one of - if not the most segregated metro area in the United States is probably deserved but with some qualifications, according to UW-Milwaukee researcher Marc Levine.

An extraordinary number of blacks live in the city as opposed to in Milwaukee suburbs, and in the city itself - while it is diverse, African-Americans, whites and Latinos tend to live in neighborhoods with little diversity.

Levine says he knows "most segregated" can be a loaded phrase, but adds, "there are lots of indicators of segregation and Milwaukee ranks high on all of them."

Credit Michelle Maternowski
Marc Levine is his office at UWM.

Levine heads the Center for Economic Development at UW-Milwaukee and has studied segregation extensively, breaking it down by zip code and census tract.

He explains that one of the standard ways social scientists measure segregation is with the index of dissimilarity, which “basically measures the degree to which you’d have to rearrange the local population by race to get a fairly even distribution.”

On that scale, 80 is hyper-segregation, 60 is segregation. According to 2010 Census data, the Milwaukee metro area scored an 80 on for white-black dissimilarity and a 57 for white-Hispanic. In that measure, Milwaukee is comparable, if slightly worse, than places like Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo and Chicago – a swath, Levine says, could be called “the Segregation Belt” of the United States.

Credit Courtesy of Reggie Jackson of America's Black Holocaust Museum

Metro Milwaukee’s index of dissimilarity, he says, has hovered around 80 for the last half-century. But so have those other cities. “So rather than use the moniker ‘most segregated’ city [for Milwaukee], say ‘among the four or five most segregated cities,’” he suggests.

One thing that does make Milwaukee unique is the degree to which the African-American population is concentrated in parts of the city itself – especially the near north and northwest sides.

"Milwaukee has the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any metropolitan area in the country."

Moreover, another demarcation line tends to be the boundaries of the City of Milwaukee. “90% of African-Americans households in metropolitan Milwaukee live in the City of Milwaukee. That’s a much higher percentage than in virtually every other metropolitan area in the country,” he explains.

Or, to put in another way, Levine says, “Milwaukee has the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any metropolitan area in the country.”

So, while just about 10% of black households live in metro Milwaukee’s suburbs, over 80% of white households live in the suburbs.

“To a degree that is relatively unique among American metropolitan areas, [however] Milwaukee still kind of conforms to the old model of a white suburban ring surrounding an increasingly African-American central city,” Marc Levine adds.

For more on this topic, explore our Project Milwaukee: Segregation Matters series.

Have questions about segregation in Milwaukee? Submit your query below.


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