Clevelanders Respond: Neighborhood Segregation

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Iconic Cleveland sign

I’m a Cleveland teacher (my students are majority African American) and I feel that many of our kids get little exposure to anything outside of their neighborhood. I feel like this leads them to fear/feel uncomfortable in any other environment thereby leading them to live their adult lives in the same neighborhood they grew up in. This can limit opportunities.”

“Segregation lowers the quality of life for everyone. It perpetuates stereotypes because our children are growing up in homogeneous bubbles.”

“Discrimination. Disparity. Unhappiness. Violence.”

 “Integrated neighborhoods sounds good, and more options are need to help people live in better neighborhoods, but let’s also look at the costs to the neighborhoods as they do become integrated.”

“History is being neglected or erased.”

In the run-up to ideastream’s special series about neighborhood segregation called Divided by Design, we asked community members to weigh in through the Listening Project about their beliefs and attitudes about segregation in greater Cleveland. Many of the over 200 respondents spoke eloquently about why neighborhood segregation matters to them and how they think their community compares to others around it. 

The majority of those surveyed felt it was important to have diverse, integrated neighborhoods (60% strongly agreed; 28% agreed; 9% were neutral). Here’s a map of the responses, based on location, about the impacts of segregation (some of which are excerpted at the top of this article).

When asked whose role it was to work toward greater integration in greater Cleveland, the top two responses were individual citizens and city governments. Some people got more specific with write-in responses, saying it was the responsibility of homeowners associations, block clubs, large local institutions, realtors, school districts, community development corporations, and banks. 

The survey also drilled down into questions about the respondents’ own neighborhoods. Responses were split equally, with about a third saying their neighborhood had received less investment than others, a third saying it had received equal investment to others, and a third saying their community received more investment than others. It was more of a bell curve response when it came to the question of whether a respondent’s neighborhood had improved, stayed the same, or declined over the past decade. Here are responses to this question based on location (blue = greatly improved, yellow = stayed the same, red = greatly declined).

When it comes to beliefs about why neighborhoods in greater Cleveland are segregated now, the majority of survey takers (55%) said it was a combination of the following: basic economics, comfort and personal choice, and decades of discriminatory policies that have limited where minorities could live and provided more opportunities for whites to choose where they live. One respondent noted that “perceptions drive segregation,” citing that the “narrative of blacks lowering property values continues to prevail in Cleveland.”

You can find all of the reporting from the Divided by Design series here. Join the discussion on social media by following the hashtag #dividedbydesign.

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