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ASHINGTON, April 3 The United States is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before, but an independent analysis of the 2000 census data suggests that people still live in largely segregated neighborhoods.
The analysis, conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany, found that from 1990 to 2000, even as virtually every corner of the country adopted a slightly darker hue, whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics still tended to live apart. The report issued today indicated, however, that some groups, notably blacks and whites, lived in neighborhoods that were slightly more integrated than they were in 1990.
In general, the researchers said, blacks, Hispanics and Asians lived in more integrated neighborhoods than did whites. An average white person living in a metropolitan area, which includes city dwellers and suburbanites, lives in a neighborhood that is about 80 percent white and 7 percent black, the analysis said. In contrast, a typical black person lives in a neighborhood that is 33 percent white and 51 percent black.
For the average white person, this represented a neighborhood that was about 5 percent less white and 1 percent more black than in 1990. The average black person's neighborhood had the same share of whites but 5 percent fewer blacks than in 1990. Hispanics and Asians tended to live in neighborhoods that had a slightly larger share of their ethnic groups than a decade ago, the analysis showed.
The metropolitan areas where blacks and whites were most integrated were in the South, or were military towns like Norfolk, Va., and San Diego.
Of the most segregated areas by neighborhood, New York, Newark, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island ranked in the top 10. The other areas in the top 10 were Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Miami.
"The average white person continues to live in a neighborhood that looks very different from those neighborhoods where the average black, Hispanic and Asian live," said John R. Logan, a sociologist at the university who expanded an earlier analysis of New York City to include all 331 metropolitan areas in the country.
A neighborhood was defined as a census tract, or 4,000 to 6,000 people.
Civil rights leaders said today that the analysis had wide-ranging implications on the enforcement of fair housing laws, quality schools for minority children and race relations throughout the nation.
"Perhaps the most dangerous implication of these developments is how residential segregation reinforces other societal inequalities to severely limit educational opportunity for Hispanics," said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
But some demographers took issue with the findings, pointing out that segregation in more than 250 metropolitan areas declined slightly or, in some cases, by more than 10 percent.
"Young blacks and professional blacks are moving to the South, a part of the country where segregation is declining," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. "These areas will be inhabited by middle-class whites and blacks."
In the metropolitan areas, more than 70 percent of whites are now living in the suburbs, compared with 40 percent of blacks, the analysis showed.
To the average white suburbanite, the neighborhood might seem slightly more diverse because he is living in a community that is 84 percent white, down from nearly 89 percent white in 1990. Black neighbors for that white surburbanite increased to about 5 percent from 4 percent a decade ago; Hispanic neighbors increased to 6.5 percent from 4.6 percent.
About 30 percent of whites live in cities, but they typically live in urban neighborhoods that are about 72 percent white. More than 60 percent of blacks live in cities. The typical black city resident lives in a neighborhood that is 75.5 percent minority, in which three out of five residents are black, the analysis showed.
"The trends in the 2000 census should be taken as a warning that our historic problem of black exclusion is taking on new and complex dimensions," said Gary Orfield, co- director of Harvard University's civil rights project.
Hispanics are nearly evenly split between suburbs and cities. Suburban Hispanics are more likely to have white neighbors than Hispanics living in cities.
The five most segregated metropolitan areas, by neighborhood, for whites and Hispanics were New York, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The five least-segregated areas for the two groups were Laredo, Tex.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; Modesto, Calif.; and Stockton, Calif.