Emerging Patterns of Hispanic Residential Segregation: Lessons from Rural and Small-Town America

The past two decades have ushered in a period of widespread spatial diffusion of Hispanics well beyond traditional metropolitan gateways. This article examines emerging patterns of racial and ethnic residential segregation in new Hispanic destinations over the 1990–2010 period, linking county, place, and block data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses. Our multiscalar analyses of segregation are framed by classical models of immigrant assimilation and alternative models of place stratification. We ask whether Hispanics are integrating spatially with the native population and whether recent demographic and economic processes have eroded or perpetuated racial boundaries in nonmetropolitan areas. We show that Hispanic residential segregation from whites is often exceptionally high and declining slowly in rural counties and communities. New Hispanic destinations, on average, have higher Hispanic segregation levels than established gateway communities. The results also highlight microscale segregation patterns within rural places and in the open countryside (i.e., outside places), a result that is consistent with emerging patterns of “white flight.” Observed estimates of Hispanic-white segregation across fast-growing nonmetropolitan counties often hide substantial heterogeneity in residential segregation. Divergent patterns of rural segregation reflect local-area differences in population dynamics, economic inequality, and the county employment base (using Economic Research Service functional specialization codes). Illustrative maps of Hispanic boom counties highlight spatially uneven patterns of racial diversity. They also provide an empirical basis for our multivariate analyses, which show that divergent patterns of local-area segregation often reflect spatial variation in employment across different industrial sectors.

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Daniel T. Lichter,
Domenico Parisi,
Michael C. Taquino
Rural Sociology
Publication Date: 
May 2016