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St. Pete may be diverse, but data show its neighborhoods are still segregated

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete is a diverse city. City leaders love to tout that. But a new data analysis shows that St. Pete is also still highly segregated.

FiveThirtyEight.com founder and statistician Nate Silver looked at U.S. Census data to determine which of the nation’s most populous cities had segregated neighborhoods.

A look at those cities in Southern states showed St. Pete topping the list in terms of segregation. While the Sunshine City has a diversity rating of 54 percent, it’s neighborhood diversity rating is only 36 percent. That means neighborhoods are less diverse than the whole of the city population.

In lay terms, that means individual groups of people — blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and “other races” — tend to live in neighborhoods together.

This is apparent in a dot graph compiled showing the data. The Pinellas peninsula is shown mostly in blue representing a white population. But in South St. Pete, the map begins getting green — meaning that area has a high population of African-Americans. Other areas around Northeast St. Pete appear red indicating that’s where Asian families live.

Across the Bay in Tampa, the segregation picture is a little rosier. Tampa is 66 percent diverse with 50 percent neighborhood diversity, putting it at an integration index of -1.3 percent compared to St. Pete’s integration index of -5.6 percent.

Tampa falls at number 14 on the list of most segregated cities. Orlando falls in between the two cities at number 12.

The realization draws attention to the difference between diversity and segregation. Referring to an area as diverse tends to evoke a sense that an area is inclusive of all races. However, when one mentions segregation it’s seen as a blast to the past where blacks weren’t allowed to use the same drinking fountain as their white neighbors.

Instead of the two being opposite, they’re actually quite related. For a city to be segregated, it must also be diverse. For example, Lincoln, Neb., has a positive integration index but it’s neighborhood diversity index is only 30 percent.

Hialeah and Jacksonville are the only two Florida cities to have positive integration ratings. But the two cities are very much different. Both the city and neighborhood diversity ratings for Hialeah are 10 percent. The city is just not diverse. Whereas, Jacksonville is diverse at both the city and neighborhood level.

Hialeah isn’t segregated because it isn’t diverse. Jacksonville isn’t segregated because different ethnic groups tend to live together.

Topping the list of most integrated cities in the South is Garland, Texas. The most segregated city is Atlanta, followed by Baton Rouge.

Nationwide, Chicago is the most segregated city of the 100 analyzed while Irvine, Calif., is the most integrated city.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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