Speak Out: Are Suburbs the Most Diverse Places in America?
Montgomery County cited in national study as best example of promoting diversity in housing.
Suburbia is changing. Or, at least, its racial composition is.
A study released July 20 from the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, part of the University of Minnesota Law School, finds that 44 percent of suburbanites in the country's largest metro areas live in racially integrated areas. Racially integrated is defined as 20 percent to 60 percent non-white.
According to the study, diverse suburban neighborhoods outnumber diverse neighborhoods in their central cities by a 2-to-1 ratio.
The trend plays out in our own county, which is marginally non-white--50.7 percent compared to 49.3 percent white.
Growth in non-white populations may be, in part, due to the county's affordable housing program, the study said.
Montgomery County, Maryland, provides the best example of pro-integrative policies at the county scale. Thirty years ago, the county—a wealthy suburban area directly northwest of Washington, DC—adopted its Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program.
The MPDU requires that any new housing development of 50 or more units set aside 12.5 to 15 percent of the units for households earning 65 percent or less of the regional median income. Non-whites have been the primary beneficiaries of the Montgomery County program. As of the late 1990s, people of color occupied 80 percent of the new public-housing rental units, and from 1991 to 1998, people of color accounted for approximately 55 percent of the purchasers of moderately priced dwelling units.
At the same time, and at least partly as a result of these proactive housing policies, Montgomery County schools have made enormous strides in reducing the educational achievement gap between poor non-whites and affluent whites.
Are suburbs the most diverse places in America? Tell us in the comments.