Black segregation in US drops to lowest in century

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — America's neighborhoods became more integrated last year than during any time in at least a century, says a broad array of census data released Tuesday on the impact of race and economics.

Segregation among blacks and whites fell in roughly three-fourths of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas as the two racial groups spread more evenly between inner cities and suburbs. Still, ethnic segregation in many parts of the U.S. persisted, particularly for Hispanics.

"It's taken a civil rights movement and several generations to yield noticeable segregation declines for blacks," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who reviewed the census data. "But the still-high levels of black segregation in some areas, coupled with uneven clustering patterns for Hispanics, suggest that the idea of a postracial America has a way to go."

Income also varied widely by geography. Poverty ranged from 4 percent to more than 40 percent with many of the poor living on American Indian reservations in the High Plains. Amid swirling congressional debate over taxing the wealthy, just three U.S. counties reported a median household income of over $100,000 — all in Virginia.

The new information is among the Census Bureau's most detailed yet released for neighborhoods, pending demographic results from the official 2010 census next spring.

Among the findings:

—Four New York counties ranked at the top of longest commute times to work, all in excess of 40 minutes: Richmond, Queens, Kings and Bronx. Residents in King, Texas, had the quickest trip: 3.4 minutes.

—Falls Church, Va., had the highest share of people ages 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher; it was also the locality with the highest median household income at $113,313. In all, 17 of the nation's 3,221 counties had college completion rates of over 50 percent, compared to 62 counties whose rates were less than 10 percent.

—In 21 counties, more than 1 in 3 people lived in poverty. Nationally, the poverty rate in 2009 stood at 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people.

The figures come from previous censuses and the 2009 American Community Survey, which samples 3 million households. For places with fewer than 20,000 people, the ACS figures from 2005-2009 were averaged to help compensate for otherwise large margins of error.