Protocol - Race/Ethnic Residential Segregation

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The protocol is based on extracting data from the U.S. Census Bureau on a set of variables related to the concept of residential segregation. Residential segregation describes the distribution of different race/ethnic groups across smaller areal units (e.g., census tracts) within larger areas (e.g., counties or metropolitan statistical areas [MSAs]).

All the relevant variables are available from the 1990 and 2000 decennial Censuses. Once the data are extracted the proposed measure, the Dissimilarity Index can be calculated. The protocol here describes the process using Summary File 1 (SF1) files (i.e., 100% sample data) from the 2000 Census. The Dissimilarity Index is one of the most commonly used race/ethnic residential segregation measures.

All the necessary variables used in calculating residential segregation will be available from the 2010 Census. At time of writing (summer 2010) the 2010 Census has not been released, but once available it should be possible to calculate the Dissimilarity Index using input data from census tract and census block-group levels. It is mandated by law that the first population count data should be released before March 31, 2011.

Specific Instructions:

Assuming that information on current address (see PhenX Demographics domain, Current Address measure) and any previous address(es) (see PhenX Environmental Exposures domain, Residential History measure) has been collected for a study respondent, then via geocoding it is possible to link the address of a participant to his or her county or metropolitan area (or other large geographical unit).

It is necessary to extract data for smaller units (e.g., census tracts) to calculate the Dissimilarity Index for each larger unit. To aid comparability between studies, the Social Environment Working Group recommends that researchers set the smaller area to the census tract and the larger area to the metropolitan statistical area.

Additionally, researchers can use the census variables to calculate more basic diversity scores at the census tract level such as the entropy index.

The most common conceptualization of residential segregation is based on the dimension of evenness (Taeuber & Taeuber, 1965; White, 1986; Massey & Denton, 1988; Reardon & OSullivan, 2004), and the most widely used measure of residential segregation is the Dissimilarity Index, sometimes referred to as D. This measure is computationally straightforward to calculate from Census data, and while the index of dissimilarity was originally applied in a comparison of two different population groups (most often Whites and Blacks), recent papers have extended this measure to the multiple race/ethnic group case (Reardon & Firebaugh, 2002), and others have extended the 2 and multigroup measure by incorporating the spatial dimension using data from adjacent or proximate census units and weighting accordingly (see White, 1983; Wong, 1993; Reardon & OSullivan, 2004; Reardon et al., 2008).


The Dissimilarity Index is based on U.S. Census data.

The technical documentation for the 1990 and 2000 decennial Censuses are available online at American Factfinder (http://factfinder.census.gov). Select Data Sets link, and then select Decennial Census. Different tabs allow the user to select 2000 or 1990 data and/or materials. Specific data sets are then selected by clicking in data-specific radio buttons (e.g., for Census 2000 options, include SF1 or SF3). SF1 refers to Summary File 1 (the short form of the U.S. Census collected on everyone, and referred to as 100% data), and SF3 refers to Summary File 3 (the long form of the U.S. Census collected on detailed population and housing variables from a one-in-six [16%–17%] sample and weighted to represent the total population). For each data set, the user can create tables and maps, extract data, or consult technical documentation. Users not familiar with Census data should consult the technical materials. The technical documentation for SF1 and SF3 data sets are available at the U.S. Census Bureau website:

SF1: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/doc/sf1.pdf

SF3: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/doc/sf3.pdf

Race and Ethnicity data can be found in SF1 and SF3 (as well as other Census data products). Here, we focus on SF1 and data based on the 100% sample in 2000.

The key race/ethnicity data in SF1 (100%) are found in "Table P8. Hispanic or Latino by Race." This table is preferred over other possible race and race/ethnic tables available, as it provides data on the main race/ethnic groups in the United States and explicitly incorporates data on Hispanic or Latino populations, otherwise not available in the race-only tables.

The race/ethnic data are available for all small census geographies—such as census block, census block group, and census tract—and can be easily extracted for almost any geographic level.

Table: SF1 Table P8 on Hispanic or Latino by Race

Universe: Total population

SF1 Table P8 is reproduced below:


Reference Cell #

Total Population


Not Hispanic or Latino


White alone


Black or African American alone


American Indian and Alaska Native alone


Asian alone


Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone


Some other race alone


Two or more races alone


Hispanic or Latino


White alone


Black or African American alone


American Indian and Alaska Native alone


Asian alone


Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone


Some other race alone


Two or more races alone


Researchers can use the data in this table to easily calculate basic variables (e.g., the percentage of any race and/or ethnicity group) or to combine groups (e.g., all minorities).

The Dissimilarity Index provides data on larger areas (e.g., metropolitan statistical areas) using smaller level data.

The most common conceptualization of residential segregation is based on the dimension of evenness. Evenness refers to the differential distribution of the subject population across neighborhoods in a large area (e.g., metropolitan area). It ranges from 0 (complete integration) to 1 (complete segregation) and indicates the percentage of a groups population that would have to change residence for each neighborhood to have the same percentage of that group as the metropolitan area overall. It is computed as:



n is the number of tracts in the larger area (e.g., a metropolitan area),

xi is the population size of the minority group of interest in tract i,

X is the population of the minority group in the larger area (e.g., metropolitan area) as a whole,

yi is the population of the reference group (usually non-Hispanic Whites) in tract i, and,

Y is the population of the reference group in the larger area (e.g., metropolitan) area as a whole.

The calculation requires the computation of the totals for each group across all subareas within a larger region (e.g., all census tracts within a county), the proportion of each group within each subarea, the absolute difference between the proportions, and the sum of the absolute differences. The latter number is multiplied by 0.5 to generate a result between 0.0 and 1.0. A value of 0.0 would indicate there were the same proportions of majority and minority group populations in each subarea, as in the larger regions population. If all subareas within the region contain members of just one group (i.e., there is no co-residence) then D equals 1.0, indicating complete segregation.

Extending the Dissimilarity Index: The Multigroup Analog

While much early research on segregation looked at two groups (e.g., Black and White, or majority and minority), todays society is multiethnic. Two-group measures are useful but limited for describing complex patterns of segregation. The choice to use a two-group or multigroup D depends on the specific question of interest. In a region where the population is composed of three groups (e.g., White non-Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic), we may be interested in

a) segregation between two specific groups (e.g., How segregated are White from Black residents?); or

b) segregation among all three groups (e.g., How segregated are White non-Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic residents from each other?).

The two-group measure can still be used by comparing all possible pairs of population groups (Morrill, 1995), but these are not comprehensive, and multiple groups are not treated simultaneously. To address segregation among multiple groups requires a multigroup analog to D (Morgan et al., 1975; Sakoda, 1981). The multigroup analog describes the extent to which two or more population groups are similarly distributed among subareas. The formula for multigroup dissimilarity (from Reardon & Firebaugh, 2002) is:

formula for multigroup dissimilarity


T is total population,

M is the number of groups m,

J is the number of subareas or units j,

tj is number of individuals in subarea j,

πm is the proportion in group m,

πjm is the proportion in group m, of those in unit j, and

I is the Simpsons Interaction Index, given by

The interpretation of multigroup D (sometimes labeled as D(m)) is the same as D (see Wong, 1993).

In the Stata statistical software package, the command seg (installed by typing "ssc install seg" from within Stata) will compute D (Reardon, 2002).

Researchers have extended segregation measures by incorporating the spatial dimension (see White, 1983; Wong, 1993; Reardon & OSullivan, 2004). There are spatially modified versions of the D index (see Wong, 1993).

Protocol Name from Source:


Publicly available

Personnel and Training Required

Knowledge of Census data products and websites, such as American Factfinder, or commercial geospatial data products, such as that provided by vendors such as GeoLytics (http://www.geolytics.com).

The extracted data need to be manipulated, and the Index of Dissimilarity needs to be calculated.

Equipment Needs
Access to a desktop/laptop computer with internet access to download raw data from the U.S. Census Bureaus American Factfinder website (http://factfinder.census.gov). Statistical Packages (e.g., SPSS, SAS) for data manipulation.
Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Secondary Data Analysis

Life Stage:

Infant, Toddler, Child, Adolescent, Adult, Senior, Pregnancy


Not applicable: Derived from publicly available secondary data

Selection Rationale

The PhenX Social Environments Working Group preferred an objective measure of racial/ethnic residential segregation using Census data. A questionnaire that relies on subjective judgment based on retrospective ascertainment is likely to be unreliable.



Common Data Elements (CDE) Social Environment Race/Ethnic Residential Segregation Assessment Score 3151013 CDE Browser
Derived Variables


Process and Review


Recommended data sources include:

U.S. Census Bureau decennial Census (1990 and 2000).

U.S. Census Bureau. (2001). Census 2000, Summary File 1, Technical Documentation, Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/doc/sf1.pdf.

American Factfinder website: http://factfinder.census.gov.

Note that several online sources provide Dissimilarity Index scores for selected metropolitan statistical areas, counties, and school districts (and across Census years). See, for example, the American Communities Project and the School Segregation Project at the Brown and Lewis Mumford Center at Albany (http://www.s4.brown.edu/cen2000/index.html; http://www.s4.brown.edu/schoolsegregation/index.htm) as well as the Spatial Impact Factor Web Data at RTI International (http://rtispatialdata.rti.org/).

General References

Iceland, J., & Douzet, F. (2006). Measuring racial and ethnic segregation. Hrodote, 122(3): 25–43.

Iceland, J., Weinberg, D. H., & Steinmetz, E. (2002). Racial and ethnic residential segregation in the United States: 1980–2000 (U.S. Census Bureau, Series CENSR‑3). Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/censr-3.pdf

Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1988). The dimensions of residential segregation. Social Forces, 67, 281–315.

Morgan, P.M., Murphy, R.F., Willis, R.A., Hubbard, D.W., & Norton, J.M. (1975). Dental health of Louisiana residents based on the ten-state nutrition survey. Public Health Reports, 90(2), 173-178.

Morrill, R.L. (1995). Aging in place, age specific migration and natural decrease. The Annals of Regional Science, 29(1), 41-66.

Reardon, S. F. (2006). A conceptual framework for measuring segregation and its associations with population outcomes. In J. M. Oakes & J. S. Kaufman (Eds.), Methods in social epidemiology (pp. 169–192). San Francisco, CA: Wiley and Sons/Jossey-Bass.

Reardon, S. F., & Firebaugh, G. (2002). Measures of multi-group segregation.

Sociological Methodology, 32, 33–67.

Reardon, S. F., Matthews, S. A., OSullivan, D., Lee, B. A., Firebaugh, G., Farrell, C. R., & Bischoff, K. (2008). The geographic scale of metropolitan racial segregation. Demography, 45(3), 489–514.

Reardon, S. F., & OSullivan, D. (2004). Measures of spatial segregation. Sociological Methodology, 34, 121–162.

Sakoda, J.M. (1981). A generalized index of dissimilarity. Demography, 18(2), 245-50.

Taeuber, K. E., & Taeuber, A. F. (1965). Negroes in cities: Residential segregation and neighborhood change. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Theil, H. (1972). Statistical decomposition analysis (Vol. 14). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North-Holland.

White, M. J. (1983). The measurement of spatial segregation. American Journal of Sociology, 88, 1008–1018.

White, M. J. (1986). Segregation and diversity measures in population distribution. Population Index, 52, 198–221.

Wong, D. S. (1993). Spatial indices of segregation. Urban Studies, 30, 559–572.

Protocol ID:


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX211401100000 Hispanic or Latino Variable Mapping
PX211401140000 Hispanic or Latino - Asian alone N/A
PX211401120000 Hispanic or Latino - Black or African more
American alone show less
Variable Mapping
PX211401150000 Hispanic or Latino - Native Hawaiian and more
Other Pacific Islander alone show less
PX211401130000 Hispanic or Latino - American Indian and more
Alaska Native alone show less
PX211401160000 Hispanic or Latino - Some other race alone N/A
PX211401170000 Hispanic or Latino - Two or more races alone N/A
PX211401110000 Hispanic or Latino - White alone N/A
PX211401020000 Not Hispanic or Latino Variable Mapping
PX211401060000 Not Hispanic or Latino - Asian alone N/A
PX211401040000 Not Hispanic or Latino - Black or African more
American alone show less
PX211401070000 Not Hispanic or Latino - Native Hawaiian and more
Other Pacific Islander alone show less
PX211401050000 Not Hispanic or Latino - American Indian and more
Alaska Native alone show less
PX211401080000 Not Hispanic or Latino - Some other race alone N/A
PX211401090000 Not Hispanic or Latino - Two or more races alone N/A
PX211401030000 Not Hispanic or Latino - White alone N/A
PX211401010000 Total Population N/A
Social Environments
Measure Name:

Race/Ethnic Residential Segregation

Release Date:

May 31, 2016


A measure of neighborhood race/ethnic residential segregation, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.


This measure examines various population characteristics to determine the degree of race/ethnic residential segregation, the degree to which various groups reside in different neighborhoods (Iceland & Douzet, 2006). Race/ethnic residential segregation, particularly when resulting from discrimination, can have negative consequences for minority group members. Race/ethnic residential segregation can limit residential choice, constrain economic and educational opportunities by limiting people’s access to good schools and jobs, serve to concentrate poverty in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and contribute to social exclusion and alienation (Massey & Denton, 1988). Residential segregation also affects the nature and quality of intergroup relations in society: segregation reduces contact between groups and is usually thought to both cause and reflect polarization across communities (Reardon, 2006). Following Reardon (2006), a region is segregated to the extent to which individuals of a different group live in different neighborhoods within a region. That is, the term segregation does not apply to individual neighborhoods but to larger regions (e.g., school districts, counties, metropolitan statistical areas.


Social Environments, American Community Survey, ACS, neighborhood, residential segregation, neighborhood disadvantage, U.S. Census