Benefits of Integration for Black and White Families
Diversity is important to any successful community, but this is only the first step in building a thriving society where residents from various backgrounds share their lives with one another. Integration means looking beyond population metrics to examine how people interact.
When moving to a new community, you may wonder: Who will my neighbors be? What will my child’s classroom look like? Who will I see at the grocery store? Ensuring integration in each of these settings requires an active, intentional commitment to thoughtful policies, programs, and relationships—work that benefits every community member.
A Local Response to a National Issue
Racial integration in the United States is, unfortunately, a rare and precious thing, and historic nationwide barriers to integration including housing discrimination, exclusionary zoning, discriminatory school attendance policies, and discriminatory placement of low-income housing have made it difficult to achieve.
Communities that recognize the need for action may adopt pro-integrative strategies to support stable racial integration in neighborhoods and schools. They may also provide opportunities for people of different races, ethnic groups, and backgrounds to meet, form friendships, and participate fully in the community’s economic, political, civic, educational, and cultural life.
Everyone Benefits from Integration
The benefits of integration are powerful—for all racial groups. Studies published by The Urban Institute, The University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, Annual Review of Sociology, and Bloomberg CityLab, among others, show that Black families living in integrated neighborhoods benefit from:
- Greater access to resources such as food services, childcare, after-school activities, and recreational facilities
- Increased employment, earnings, and accumulated wealth
- Enhanced educational outcomes, with Black students undergoing more years of education and having better economic futures if even a portion of their schooling takes place in integrated classrooms.
- Additionally, students of all races experience long-lasting cognitive, social, and emotional benefits
- A more environmentally sustainable neighborhood that is denser, more walkable, and more energy-efficient than comparable non-integrated neighborhoods
The benefits don’t stop there. For White families, increased interaction with Black families, Indigenous families, and families of color broadens social, academic, and professional horizons and reduces the tendency for stereotyping and bias. A study conducted by The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity found that White college-age students who are exposed to racially diverse cultural knowledge and social perspectives in racially integrated classes have a higher capacity for critical and complex thinking. Integration also leads to higher levels of civic engagement.
White students also value their experiences in integrated settings as preparation for future public life, which will be inherently multi-racial because U.S. Census data tells us that White people will become a minority population by 2044.
Continuing a Legacy of Harmony
These advantages are well-understood by Cory Booker, a U.S. Senator from New Jersey who advocates for integration by sharing his family’s history living and working in one of the country’s earliest examples of an integrated community, Buxton, Iowa, in the early 1900s. “In Buxton, you had these European immigrants and Black migrants from the South who all joined together in an integrated community over 100 years before that was a mandate by law in the nation,” he said in a campaign speech in Des Moines. “They worked together and went down into the coal mines together, trying to scratch from that earth a living for their families, their American dream.”
Buxton’s vision of a strong, supportive, integrated community is very much alive in South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey. The towns are dedicated to making integration a lasting reality.
The integration process is never complete; it necessitates ongoing investment and effort, to which the South Orange|Maplewood community has dedicated itself for more than 20 years. While we have made great strides with the involvement of our two town governments, our citizens, organizations such as the Community Coalition on Race, and many volunteers, we are committed to continuous action and improvement.