Is Philadelphia really the ninth-most segregated city in America?

Salon yesterday came up with a fascinating report on the 10 most segregated urban areas in America. The results were shocking, especially for us denizens of the northeast who like to imagine we’ve gone beyond the racial tensions of the past century; numerous “educated,” “liberal” cities ended up on the list, including Philadelphia, sitting there at number nine.

As Salon reports:

Local media coverage of the 2010 census data has emphasized that Philadelphia grew for the first time after 50 years of decline, thanks largely to growing Latino and Asian populations. The persistence of segregation, however, has gone unmentioned, but the warning signs are clear: Whites led growth in far-flung counties like Chester in Pennsylvania, Gloucester and Ocean in New Jersey, and Cecil in Maryland; white population declined everywhere else as blacks, Latinos and Asians moved to resegregating older suburbs.

[…] Desegregation has also been contentious across the Delaware River in South Jersey, where suburbs are deeply fragmented, with miniature tax fiefdoms for the rich and white just minutes from crumbling warehouses for the poor like Camden.

On the face of it, this seems to make sense to Metro. It didn’t take a sociologist to notice how white flight contributed to population growth in our quietly prosperous Montgomery County suburb, or to see how Frankford Avenue often acts as a racial border in Philadelphia’s northeast.

Salon also notes, though, that attempts to talk about the area’s segregation are met with resistance, publishing a recent letter to the editor in Philadelphia Weekly and noting: “For the besieged white subdivision dweller, the American dream [apparently] means freedom from society’s poor and black.” Is this an overstatement? What do you think?

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