Striking was the fact that, regardless of baseline levels in 1980, increases in levels of segregation between 1980 and 2000 boosted the likelihood that an MSA would be characterized by greater racial health disparities between 2001 and 2018, almost tripling that likelihood in some cases.
Data analysis characterized three groups of MSAs, two of which had lower levels of baseline segregation and showed slight declines over time in Black-to-white mortality disparities. These groups were projected to see the end of disparities by 2034 and 2075, respectively. The third group had the highest levels of baseline segregation and disparities in death rates and their trajectories rose over time, indicating that racial disparities will continue to worsen.
“These data do not support the notion that racism is a thing of the past or that we’re in a post-racial society. In fact, for some people in some communities, things are getting worse,” Siegel said. “Systemic racism, such as restrictive housing covenants and discriminatory ‘redline’ lending policies, created residential segregation, and equally purposeful change will be needed to eliminate segregation and associated health inequities.”
The authors say that the study opens the door for further investigation to identify the best ways to reduce health disparities by combating residential segregation, and they suggest expansion of such research to include other races and ethnicities.
“I’m very excited about the additional research that our study will inspire,” said Leighla Dergham, MG26, one of the paper’s four graduate student authors, who is enrolled in the School of Medicine’s physician assistant and master of public health dual-degree program. “By identifying an important entry point for meaningful interventions, our research will potentially have great impact on future public health initiatives and policies to reduce racial health disparities associated with segregation.”