Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Why are the Twin Cities so segregated? A new report blames housing policies — and education reforms

Myron Orfield, a University of Minnesota law professor and director of the school’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, might not get much argument with an assertion he makes in a soon-to-be-released study: that the Minneapolis-St. Paul region is more racially segregated than Seattle and Portland, the places he compares the Twin Cities to in the report, “Why Are the Twin Cities So Segregated?” [PDF]

It’s when Orfield ventures into his explanation of why that segregation exists that he is likely to raise eyebrows, if not outrage.

Orfield puts the blame not on overt racism or societal inertia, but on the people and organizations that — in response to poverty and poor educational outcomes — have made policy decisions that ended up actually perpetuating segregation. 

“Driven by political and government apathy, the well-meaning but misdirected efforts of housing developers, school reformers and the proliferation of organizations and groups with firm financial interest in maintaining segregated living patterns, our state has slowly reversed its civil rights heritage,” the study asserts. 

Specifically, Orfield and his co-authors from the institute — Will Stancil, Thomas Luce and Eric Myott — blame policies and practices that redirected affordable housing programs from mostly white suburbs back to segregated neighborhoods in Minneapolis, St. Paul and first-tier suburbs such as Brooklyn Center and Richfield.

“You can build affordable housing in poor neighborhoods,” he said during an interview this week, “you just shouldn’t build all of it [there].”

The study also repeats an argument Orfield has put forward before: that charter schools re-create school segregation by creating institutions that are too often mostly black or, increasingly, mostly white. “I don’t think the public schools in segregated neighborhoods have been doing very well for a long time,” he said in an interview this week. “I think they’re bad schools. I don’t defend them at all. But the sad thing is, the charters are worse.”

A move away from ‘fair share’ policies

The study examines where low-income black residents live in the Twin Cities vs. those in Portland and Seattle. It found that in 2012, “19 percent of low-income black residents of the Twin Cities live in high-poverty census tracts (up from 13 percent in 2000) compared to just 3.4 percent of low-income black residents in Seattle (down from 3.5 percent in 2000) and 1.6 percent in Portland (down from 1.9 percent in 2000).” 

Orfield calls this the re-segregation of the region, and asserts that markers of racial segregation and inequality have worsened since the early 1980s, for which Orfield and his team blame on housing and, to a lesser extent, education.

Orfield argues that over the last several decades, the region has moved away from “fair share” policies that directed affordable housing resources to mostly white suburbs, and toward policies that pushed those resources back into the central cities. “Housing dollars returned to segregated neighborhoods,” the report states. “In the end, the very effective fair share program was ended not only by racially-motivated white opposition from affluent suburbs, but by the changing priorities and self-interest of central city politicians and housing developers, and the neglect of a disengaged Met Council and liberal legislature.”

Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School

Between 2002 and 2011, the report notes, the region produced 2,249 new affordable units (affordable defined as being within reach of those earning 30 percent of the metro area’s median income). Ninety-two percent of these units were located in the central cities, the study reports. “In other words, the central cities received four times their fair share of very low-income units,” Orfield writes. 

Orfield, who as a DFL state legislator helped create the current version of the Metropolitan Council, has been a vocal critic of the regional governing body, asserting that it doesn’t use its broad powers to further its goals. “The Met Council, the regional entity with the most power to ensure that housing subsidies were put towards integrative ends, instead took an easier, more politically palatable path, and directed money into urban communities where affordable development would meet no opposition.”

Orfield complains that even when white suburbs want to build affordable housing, the point system used to choose projects favor the central cities. For example, points are given to projects close to mass transit, with special emphasis on light rail and bus rapid transit. But when public and private entities pushed for affordable housing along the Green Line as a means of also increasing density there, nearly all of the units were built in low-income neighborhoods, Orfield said.

The role of the ‘poverty housing industry’

The inability to change the results, the report concludes, is due to the political clout of what Orfield calls the “Poverty Housing Industry”: “a web of tightly interconnected government agencies, non-profits, private developers, banks, and investors, all dependent upon a profitable model of building low-income housing in poor central city neighborhoods.” 

Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck said the council shares the goal of using housing policy to integrate the region. “That’s the strong will of the council members,” said Duininck. “Where we have disagreement is how do we get to that result.”

Duininck also said that he’s reluctant to use force to get housing policies implemented. “Myron and others would say, ‘You should take a bit stronger or harsher approach.’ My preference is to work with incentives.”

Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School

The council recently amended a proposed affordable housing building in Cedar-Riverside to allow the developer to include some market-rate housing to provide a better mix. As to the claim that Met Council policy gives too much credit to projects near light rail, “I understand his point,” Duininck said. “If taken to extremes, we would concentrate affordable housing in struggling neighborhoods on light rail.” 

And though he conceded that the council could do a better job of distributing affordable housing across the entire region, Duininck also said that some of the Met Council’s decisions were in response to housing policies in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Charter advocates push back

The report also takes aim at education policy, with special focus on charter schools. “Enhancing school integration efforts was one of the arguments initially made in support of open enrollment and charter schools, the two main school choice measures in Minnesota,” the report states. “Ironically, however, both programs eventually evolved to share many of the same strategies and results that southern segregationists had used to elude the mandates of Brown v. Board of Education, and charter proponents have completely abandoned any effort to defend the programs on the basis of integrative outcomes.”

Advocates of open enrollment also made similar claims, the report states, “but in recent years, growing numbers of white students are using the program to move from racially integrated schools (or schools in racial transition) to much less racially diverse schools.”

The reaction from charter school advocates to Orfield’s latest salvo was part “there he goes again,” part anger — and part agreement. “Year after year he makes the same points,” said Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change. “It would be nice if he got into the schools and helped improve outcomes for kids.”

Bill Wilson, the founder and executive director of the Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul, says there is a critical difference between what Orfield reports on and the racial segregation he experienced as a child in Indiana. The latter was government-ordered: As a kid, Wilson’s bus passed three white schools on its way to the segregated black school. So he objects to comparing charter schools to that system. “Charter schools are schools of choice,” Wilson said. “Parents choose charter schools to get a better education. The government is not imposing anything. It’s part of an open process. … Are these children better off? I think they are.” 

Orfield’s claim that charters produce worse educational outcomes than traditional public schools is also oversimplified, says Nathan.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul Percentage Minority Population by Census Tract
Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Minneapolis-Saint Paul Percentage Minority Population by Census Tract, 2010

Section 8 vouchers as a remedy

Orfield’s bottom-line belief is that integrated neighborhoods are the starting point to resolving most of the problems facing low-income minority residents. If neighborhoods and cities were more racially mixed, then schools would follow, he argues. His short-term means to that end is broader use of Section 8 housing vouchers — a program that can be used by eligible residents to rent housing anywhere. Given the choice, Orfield said, many low-income minority residents will do what most people do: seek housing that is safe and near good schools.

“In many areas, existing rental units could fill the void simply by increasing the number of landlords who accept vouchers,” the report states. “If subsidized housing was currently distributed more equitably, it would be unnecessary to even discuss perennially controversial topics like pro-integrative school boundary reforms or busing.”

Subsidized housing units in the suburbs have the region’s longest waiting lists. “Nonetheless, the [public housing industry] argues that low-income racial minorities want to stay in segregated central city neighborhoods with the Twin Cities’ worst schools, and that subsidized housing must be built in these communities to accommodate them,” Orfield writes.

As the report notes, however, Section 8 vouchers are not only in short supply in Minnesota, the ability to use them is severely constricted, since there is no law prohibiting landlords from rejecting prospective tenants who seek to use vouchers to pay rent.

Attached File(s):


Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 03/05/2015 - 10:55 am.

    seattle and portland

    why those two cities as comparisons? it seems a bit cherry picked. i love Orfield’s work, but aren’t we at the same time less segregated than many (most) other cities?

    • Submitted by Jason Stahl on 03/05/2015 - 11:49 am.

      why seattle and portland?

      First paragraph of the Executive Summary of the report itself explains it — similar overall demographic makeup of all three areas.

    • Submitted by Will Stancil on 03/05/2015 - 01:04 pm.

      Those are good questions, and there are a few answers.

      First, Seattle and Portland were picked because they are demographically very similar to the Twin Cities. Portland is especially good for comparison, given that it’s the only other American city with a regional government similar to the Met Council. I’d suggest that metropolitan comparisons are as much an art as a science, given the fact that regions can vary across so many dimensions, and the relatively small number of mid-sized American cities.

      Second, while there are certainly regions more segregated than the Twin Cities, it’s important to note that the most widely used measures of segregation are highly sensitive to a region’s racial makeup, which is why it’s important to find peer cities with similar demographics. (I’d also note that our disparities along dimensions are almost uniquely bad.)

      Finally, in the full report (which I absolutely recommend you read!), the comparison to Portland and Seattle isn’t meant to simply illustrate the depth of segregation and inequality in the Twin Cities. It’s also meant to show that the segregative trend in the Cities isn’t merely the result of national economic or political factors. Other cities, which looked a lot like us twenty years ago, have ended up in a very different place. The course we’ve taken is uniquely ours, and unusually bad, and we have to take responsibility for the specific regional factors that have led us down this road.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/05/2015 - 11:30 am.

    Social Engineering 101

    This is why social engineering doesn’t work. We have one set of white liberals who’s objective is to move black folks out into the white-ish suburbs, and another set of white liberals who’s objective is to add 50,000 new residents to the central city, which would require inexpensive housing for that to work.

    A conservative’s version of social engineering would be to provide, not housing vouchers, but education vouchers that would enable poor families to send their kids to whatever school they wanted, regardless of neighborhood. But that idea is seen as a non-starter by another set of white liberals, the K-12 unionists.

    Here’s an idea: Respect the notion that since the beginning of time, people of all races, creeds and colors, have always chosen to live amongst, and associate with, people who are like them. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/05/2015 - 05:06 pm.

      Social Engineering

      Actually, there are examples all around us that social engineering DOES “work,” in the sense that it accomplishes a municipal or regional goal. It is just as much “social engineering” to build I-694 or I-494 or I-394 as it is to build light rail from downtown to the airport or along the Bottineau corridor, or between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. All require huge public investment, and all have significant social consequences – some of them foreseen, some not, some positive, and some whose negative effects have been ignored (or the potential for those negative effects was ignored from the very beginning).

      Vouchers are the educational equivalent of snake oil, since there’s ample research showing that the few systems that make heavy use of vouchers (there are only a few) have educational outcomes no better than the vast majority of systems that make no use of vouchers at all. Vouchers are an article of faith for folks on the right, but there’s no evidence that vouchers actually provide a better education for the children of the community as a whole, and they appear to be worse for children from minority poor families, since the people most likely to use them are the affluent. Many a voucher program has turned out to be a for-profit scam that leaves kids and parents holding an empty bag, metaphorically. They also don’t work financially, since poor families would need huge subsidies to send their children to “any school they want,” including exclusive private schools in the area. I’m not willing to subsidize that. Are you? In fact, poor families would need subsidies to send their children to just about any “private” school. Vouchers are code for even greater segregation and discrimination based on both race AND income.

      Indeed, we’ve been tribal creatures since the beginning, and we still are. I don’t dispute that. It’s when public policy and unstated, but equally rigorously enforced unofficial social policies require segregation, knowing that segregation itself harms both those being segregated and those doing the segregating, that a modern civilized society ought to step in. If you’re not willing to go any farther than “We’re tribal creatures” in terms of social philosophy, thus providing an intellectual framework from which you can hang all sorts of racist and otherwise discriminatory policies, you’re going to have to renounce the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, since both founding documents are absolutely and unequivocally based on the notion that ALL are entitled to equal opportunity.

      The issue here in the Twin Cities metro appears to me – a relative newcomer – to be based at least partly on wealth, and while the correlation of wealth to ethnicity and/or race is pretty high, it’s not 1.00. Discrimination based on wealth (zoning or development ordinances requiring certain sizes of house or lot, for example) seem to me just as pernicious as discrimination that’s more obviously based on race or ethnicity. You may be smarter, or make more money, or be a different color, but the whole point of this nation is that you’re not a better PERSON than me because of those characteristics.

  3. Submitted by Chelle Blakely on 03/05/2015 - 11:38 am.

    Poor Comparisons

    Although I can concur on many of the problems identified in this report, I agree with Mr. Lindeke that these are poor comparisons. Seattle, maybe as their metro is of a similar size, (but with a totally different history). The Portland metro is too small. We should at least look at Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa, and San Diego as similarly sized metros. It seems the comparisons were indeed cherry picked.

    Granted, I think Seattle and Portland may be better “models” than Detroit or St. Louis, but using them as direct comparisons tarnishes the valuable information in this report.

  4. Submitted by Laura Harmon on 03/05/2015 - 11:50 am.

    seattle and portland

    keep in mind that both Portland and Seattle have extensive mass transit making it much easier for people without cars to get to jobs/school from different parts of the metro areas.

    • Submitted by Doug Trumm on 09/06/2016 - 12:48 pm.

      seattle and portand transit

      I wouldn’t characterize Seattle’s (or Portland’s) regional mass transit as so far ahead of the Twin Cities. Portland has the most extensive rail coverage but then its system is very slow downtown because it’s at grade. Seattle has ambitious light rail plans but currently buses, which are very susceptible to traffic congestion, are the the primary access point to mass transit in the majority of suburbs. The South Sounder train does pretty well but functions similarly to a commuter bus with low midday and weekend frequency. In other car-free living is still very challenging and time-consuming in Seattle’s suburbs.

  5. Submitted by Will Stancil on 03/05/2015 - 01:05 pm.

    Those are good questions, and

    EDIT: I posted this reply in the wrong spot.

  6. Submitted by Jeffrey Klein on 03/05/2015 - 12:57 pm.

    Maybe people don’t want to relocate to suburbs

    It seems like Mr. Orfield is operating from this 1960s viewpoint where we all aspire to live in the glorious suburbs with their superior school test scores, cul-de-sacs, and Olive Gardens. More and more, people don’t. Concentrated poverty is a bad thing, obviously, and worse if it’s racially concentrated. But I still would rather put effort into making all schools good and all neighborhoods strong than opt for a program of moving people out into suburbofif they don’t want that.

    In any case, poor people in suburbs will be worse and worse off as gas prices inevitably increase again and our ability to sustain low density, low efficiency neighborhoods continues to weaken.

  7. Submitted by kay kessel on 03/05/2015 - 01:38 pm.

    why twin cities schools so segregated

    I am retired from Mpls Public Schools for almost 13 years. Since 2002 the Mn legislature under the conservative legislators, Gov. pawlenty and Chamber of Commerce have been merciless with not only Mpls Public Schools but other urban schools.

    They have cut funding for general funds, special education, ESL, summer school, after school programs, and only under Gov. Dayton have we seen a positive light.

    As a white liberal who cares about all the children in our schools, regardless if their parents are of any party, shouldn’t affect the school funding but it has. I had Dr Van Mueller for my Professor at the Univ. Of Mn. in a Graduate class on education funding. The funding under the Mn Miracle keeps getting politicized so much and now Sen. Hann and Republicans want to break up the Mpls Public School District.

    If you starve the schools whether you are in an urban or rural school district, you make great damage to all the students. Mn Post had an article that listed the graduation rate in many districts. Folks revisit that for it wasn’t just in Mpls/St. Paul .
    I live in Richfield and 70 percent of our students are from communities of color and so many on free and reduced lunch.
    We need early childhood education back to what it was before Gov Pawlenty led us in a total campaign against public schools.

    We need 7 years for ESL students. We need more funding on the general funds per pupil. We need breakfasts and lunches for all students and over half of the schools before gov. Dayton withheld lunches for low income children. That is immoral.

  8. Submitted by Joe Smith on 03/05/2015 - 01:54 pm.

    Shocking that the “Poverty Housing Industry” can’t fix this problem. The perfect cocktail for crony capitalism is government agencies and non profits working with private developers and investors. The elites profit and the regular folks suffer.

  9. Submitted by john cairns on 03/05/2015 - 02:21 pm.

    Orfield report

    His report is as astute about the housing issues as it is weak on the educations discussion. Myron and his brother have been opposed to public school choice from the first time it emerged in Vermont and then Minnesota. They have no regard for the role of parents in making choices to get the best possible education for their kids. He gives a lot of opinion about charters with pathetic absence of data. Stanford CREDO reports frequently on the issues and is far more reliable.

    Children would be much better off if Myron spent all of his time on his correct views about housing issues and simply forgot about his diatribes on the education side.

    • Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 03/05/2015 - 09:28 pm.

      You must not read the Stanford reports

      First, after an entire generation of unlimited choice and unlimited bussing in Saint Paul, the schools were more segregated than before the experiment began. They finally got a superintendent who stood up to the entrenched and privileged voices who benefited from the choice system. The most vulnerable kids and their families were not able to leverage the choice system, and it failed them miserably. I will say this again, over a generation of universal choice and universal busing and the problem got worse for our most vulnerable kids. I am grateful that their are people like this who are able to finally speak some truth to the powerful interests who know nothing about education.

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/05/2015 - 02:27 pm.

    I hope

    …the report starts a conversation that goes on long enough to resolve at least some of the issues it raises.

    I’ve lived here 5-1/2 years now, compared to a dozen years in metro Denver and half a century in metro St. Louis, with most of the latter in the now-much-more-prominent city of Ferguson. Of the three central cities proper, I’d say Denver is the least segregated, though I’ve no data to back up that impression. Minneapolis *feels* more segregated than Denver, and strikes me, as a relative newbie, only slightly less segregated than St. Louis, where segregation goes back centuries. How and where St. Paul fits into this I have no idea. I don’t travel to St. Paul frequently, and don’t have a *feel* for it as a community at all.

    To deal with segregation as an issue, I think you have to start with housing. Realtors in St. Louis city and the immediate suburbs used to have actual written covenants which blatantly segregated neighborhoods and even blocks within neighborhoods. I don’t know that there’s an equivalent history here, but the results do not strike me as markedly different. Housing segregation, though it’s heavily weighted toward race, also incorporates income to a significant degree. It was not unusual, when I was a planning commissioner in Colorado, to see housing development proposals that mentioned neither race nor income, but specifically included regulations for minimum square footage for both lots and houses, which have exactly the same effect without mentioning either factor – as if they didn’t exist, when of course the connection between race and income is widely known all over the country, and income, of itself, will make large-lot, large detached residence-style housing available only to the most affluent.

    It’s not difficult to see the point of the “poverty housing industry” from the standpoint of profitability. It’s VERY difficult to justify the results, however, when taking into account the mission that industry is supposed to be accomplishing. Using incentives as carrots to entice (unsuccessfully) developers to build less-expensive housing in more affluent areas strikes me as morally offensive. The law, after all, prohibits housing discrimination. Incentives end up being used because – think about this – there’s no advertising campaign for “comfortable, sufficient, modest housing.” Is anyone building “modest, inexpensive” downtown condos? Everything I’ve seen in ads about housing since I arrived here has stressed “luxury.” Luxury houses, luxury condos, luxury apartments. I’m surprised there’s been no ad for a luxury cardboard box under one of our many bridges for the more sophisticated homeless person. It’s not just the wealthy Wayzata or Maple Grove resident who’s convinced his/her worth as a human being is determined by the lavishness of their McMansion. It may not qualify as a “revolution,” but rising expectations brought about by a consumer culture that features pervasive advertising certainly seem a part of the picture.

    Mr. Wilson’s defense of charter schools is sophistry. We now have plenty of data to show that charter schools perform no better than “regular” public schools with similar student populations. Charters, however, often don’t have a similar student population. They’re less ethnically and racially diverse, and they usually leave the more difficult students (those who don’t speak English, those with physical or cognitive handicaps, etc.) to the public schools, thus making the already-difficult job of public schools even more difficult, especially in an era when people assign disproportionate weight to high-stakes standardized tests on which those students typically do not perform well. There’s also no evidence that charter schools are more fiscally sound or are managed better than “regular” public schools, and for the time being, I won’t even get into “for-profit” charter schools, which are an abomination.

    I sympathize with Mr. Duininck, in a new job with an agency already on the hit list of many of the area’s segregationists because it has dared to even mention this issue, but “accommodation” to pernicious self-interest on the part of racist (or simply ignorant and oblivious) suburbanites will produce no meaningful changes in either policies or outcomes for many, many years. To see how that works in the real world, simply take a look at Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, et al from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Jim Crow is no more attractive in Minnesota than he is south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    I don’t accept the rationale of those who advocate the destruction of public schools on the altar of “choice,” but even if I did, the fact that Minnesota law allows landlords to reject prospective tenants who would use Section 8 vouchers to pay their rent demonstrates quite clearly that “school choice” is something reserved for the more affluent. Neither Minnesota realtors, nor the Minnesota legislature, nor a number of suburban city councils have much to be proud of in terms of making this a more equitable region of the state and country.

  11. Submitted by David Rasmussen on 03/05/2015 - 03:09 pm.


    Having just read the 105 page Ferguson report, I find it disturbing that Mr. Orfield’s points, which seem quite obvious, would generate controversy. I think the jingoist media that keeps inventing reasons why Minnesota is superior to the rest of the world is to blame. Enough Minnesotans have never lived anyplace else. A critical mass believes the hype.

    What are the consequences of cordoning off some neighborhoods for the poor and cordoning off other neighborhoods for the privileged? (My city seems hell-bent on keeping my neighborhood poorer.) We are asking for a backlash like is happening at Ferguson.

    As a thought experiment, would it be positive to put an impound lot in Highland Park? Currently, it is mostly poorer individuals who have their cars towed and who pay the big fines, and the excuse is that tow trucks tow mostly the cars closest to the lots, for reasons of efficiency and profit. This has to be creating some feelings similar to Ferguson. Racism in people’s hearts does not have to be the cause of policies that are measurably racist.

    As a second thought experiment, what would be the consequence of not continually jamming affordable housing in already affordable areas? Might that allow some of the less wealthy to actually build equity? Might that lessen the gap between rich and poor?

    If Minnesota politics is all about the rich getting richer, then by our politics, we are working to create conditions similar to Ferguson, Mo. I don’t believe Mr. Orfield reaches a strong enough conclusion about the potential effects of our faux-liberal policies.

  12. Submitted by Margaret Harris on 03/05/2015 - 04:48 pm.


    Claiming that those of low-income racial minorities want this is so blaming the very ones who suffer from actions of the oppressors, and the ignorant supporters of them want to believe this so they can be guilt free.

  13. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/05/2015 - 08:56 pm.

    Laws of unintended consequences!

    We have lived in one of those very dark red areas for over 30 years, the trend/segregation has been readily seen for decades. Non Profits choose these neighborhoods because its cheaper than suburbia: “Read a form of free market pricing at work” via continued singular neighborhood concentration of subsidized non-profits, It drives prices down from fair market values. Purchase a lot in Ken-wood perhaps $1/2Mil or better, purchase same size lot inner city low income neighborhood, any where from $1 to 15-1800 for a non-profit. Financially a wise choice. Taxes to the city $6-8 $10000 Kenwood vs $11-1500 inner city. The city county etc, has no desire to threaten their golden goose tax collections. They also chose these areas because they already have large low income local populations, basically a ready market for low income housing. Now the low income homes are built with “tax subsidies” which means they have income restrictions.Mid and higher income folks are “segregated out” of the purchasing pool. They make too much to qualify. Result: the mid- higher incomes are restricted from buying into large swaths of new or remolded homes.Those restrictions reinforce the low income down ward spiral, increasing the concentration of low income, bigger market concentration, which drives demand for more low income housing. The local bleeding hearts and the political power brokers along with the, city, county etc. are all fully aware of this but continue the practice. Why? Its called a power base, for the non-profits, ethnic/political power groups etc. They continue to gain benefit off the non-profit (tax supported programs). The city per above Kenwood example have the “not in my back yard” political and economical issue to deal with. Many of these folks hearts may be in the right place, but the results are as Mr. Orfield has very elegantly stated, opposite in many cases to what the intended goals are. It takes courage to change, something our community, civic and political system seems to always be in short supply of. The hidden gem in all this, if you are looking for a nice Bungalow or Victorian a reasonable price with very low property taxes. “Try looking in those dark Red forbidden zones”

  14. Submitted by Joe Smith on 03/05/2015 - 09:13 pm.

    Do white liberals ever get tired of trying to tell black folks how to run their lives? The black community is more than capable of deciding what area is best for them and where/how to educate THEIR OWN children. I don’t have guilt for believing that blacks are smart, tough and resilient (they have had to be) enough to decide their own future. I’ve worked for and with blacks for yrs, just like any other race, there are great folks, good folks and bad folks. Treating blacks like they are not capable of making their own decisions is flat out condescending.
    Crony capitalism and liberal policies have led to segregation according to Mr. Orfield, a former DFL legislator. The response has been to discredit Orfeild, call those, who believe that as fellow Americans black folks can live where they want, “oppressors”, along with the bashing of folks who live in Wayzata McMansions. Interesting how some respond to an article on segregation.

    • Submitted by Chris Stewart on 03/10/2015 - 09:03 am.

      Do-As-I-Say brand of liberalism

      I believe in integrated housing and schools. My family is currently integrating a neighborhood and school. Still, I have two big problems with Orfield’s fundamentalism around the integration issue.

      First, he doesn’t practice it. His own choices in housing and schools should be a model for everything he preaches. Yet, instead of choosing a neighborhood and schools for his own family he chose not to be an integrationist. Southwest Minneapolis is not the place you move when you are a white family that wants to integrate parts of a city that need it. And Lake Harriet and Groves Academy are not the schools you choose when you are a middle class white family that believes in integration.

      Second, if we allow Orfield his choice to not integrate schools or neighborhoods, why won’t he grant the same permission to black families that want to attend culturally affirming charter schools where their kids are in small, caring environments that they trust? Are blacks the one human population on Earth that actually do better with fewer choices than Orfield enjoys? I don’t think so.

      Finally, he says that charter schools do worse than traditional public schools. By what measure? Test scores? Well, that’s funny – I thought the liberal party line about low test scores is that they don’t tell us everything about a school?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/11/2015 - 10:00 pm.

      Shoe on the other foot

      Do you think African Americans can’t think and make decisions for themselves? Do you think so called white liberals might have something common with African American liberals? Do you think us progressives aren’t tired or Right Wingers telling us who we can marry, how to live our lives, that we should be packing to be safe, that we are elites because we want to spend more of our money on the common good and less to line billionaires pockets, or that it is better to go to war than try negotiations?

  15. Submitted by Mike Downing on 03/05/2015 - 09:55 pm.

    Segregation is by education attainment and by income attainment.

    As a retired senior, I have lived in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and in Florida. I have come to the conclusion that we segregate ourselves by English proficiency, by education attainment as well as by income attainment. Segregation can be simply explained without playing the race card or nation of origin…

  16. Submitted by Joe Musich on 03/05/2015 - 11:47 pm.

    All the tounge

    wagging and personal opinion fomenting here is astounding. Look at the numbers. What is being told by the digets is not pretty. In fact it is pretty ugly. It is a time for action. It is time for change. We live in a place of great inequity and inequality. Ask yourself if you want that to continue? Dr Orfield is taking on some big bears here with the the school choice/charter issue and the public housing industry. Spokes people in this piece for that side of the issue do extremely poorly at making their arguments. In fact the arguments seem to be mostly defensive passive aggresive reactions. It is time to entertain the data for the possibilty that there might be some selective reading going on. I stand with Orfield and others here who want improvement in the outcomes.

  17. Submitted by Susan Stewart on 03/06/2015 - 12:49 am.

    Public Transportation is KEY & also Landlords Accepting Vouchers

    I am car-free and thus live the reality of the Twin Cities inadequate public transportation system on a daily basis. The vast majority of non-first-tier suburban service is commuter service only – no night or weekend/holiday service. This makes the vast majority of the none inner-city Twin Cities inaccessible for lower income individuals & families.

    As a former Section 8 renter I know first hand how incredibly difficult it is to find housing on the open market when fewer than 1/5 landlords are willing to consider accepting Section 8 vouchers. Especially if you are a minority. At first blush I had the advantage of “white privilege”… expect NOT when it came to housing… on more than one occasion I had talked a reluctant landlord into accepting a Section 8 voucher for the first time – until I brought my black (full-time employed) husband to sign the lease. Suddenly the landlord found an excuse to retract the offer! Deciding to chose a renter who is NOT Section 8 is a valid excuse in MN.

    These 2 issues need to be addressed. We know Portland & Seattle have superior public transportation systems. Question -how do they regulate Landlords accepting vouchers?

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/11/2015 - 09:31 am.


      Having a choice is not really a choice when most of your so-called choices are untenable due to the realities of the social and physical infrastructure. Sure, you might be able to choose to send your kid to a different school, but good luck getting him there. And you might technically have access to reduced cost housing in an affluent suburb (but not neighborhood–that just isn’t done), but good luck getting to work or anywhere else without a reliable car (those are expensive, even used ones nowadays). Even if you can get to a bus route, make sure you have convenient working hours–no nights or weekends!–or you aren’t getting to or from work, let alone to groceries, which are nowhere near where you live, or a bank or anything else, for that matter.

  18. Submitted by THOMAS REYNOLDS on 03/06/2015 - 08:52 am.

    The River Flows

    During my interview to become a Met Council Commissioner representing the 2nd District, I talked of the problems involved with income inequality and the difficulty in addressing this issue of concentrated segregation.

    It has been my experience that people of all colors, ethnic backgrounds, income, and even gender tend to group together to feel comfortable. To use an old axiom they ebb and flow to where they are most comfortable. This includes safe affordable housing, family, income, culture, and opportunity.

    The Met Council can be a driver to a certain extent through its livable community grants and policy directives on mass transit. But the major responsibility for directing housing, income, and opportunity lies within the local unit of government. It is through these local efforts by cities, counties, and school districts that opportunities exist to create a more balanced desegregated profile. Segregation itself is not a bad thing when people of all colors and backgrounds can live and work together without discrimination. However, concentrated poverty, lack of opportunity and hope for a better life is.

  19. Submitted by Michael Rothman on 03/06/2015 - 09:33 am.

    TC Segregation

    Housing and education are certainly key elements/symptoms of racial segregation, but this article contains not a word about jobs/economic factors. Even the IMF is reporting that 20 to 30+% of wage decline in the last few decades is a result of low union density and lack of collective bargaining. Think of the poor ‘thousands’ of Target employees who are about to be laid off due to CEO Cornell’s incompetence. Many are white, educated, and live in shiny downtown condos, but they are about to experience a North side black moment anyhow.

  20. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 03/06/2015 - 10:52 am.

    Quality ignored

    Both the Star Tribune and US News and World Report have cited Higher Ground Academy, which Bill Wilson founded, as one of the most effective public schools in the Twin Cities for students from low income families. In fact, US News cited HGA as the most effective (using multiple measures) public high school in the Twin Cities for the 2013-14 school year.

    The Star Tribune regularly cites a mixture of district & charters as “Beating the Odds”.

    We’ll make more progress by learning from and applying lessons from schools like HGA, rather than putting them down.

  21. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/07/2015 - 08:45 am.

    Failing public schools; it ain’t a money problem folks. What MPS and SPPS spends per pupil, per year is just as much as many of the finest private schools charge for tuition. I’ve posted the links so many times, I think it would be more instructive to google them yourselves if truth is important (I exclude Breck, which seems to deliberately price itself into exclusion).

  22. Submitted by Mitch Elling on 03/10/2015 - 10:48 am.

    Orfield – The Hypocrit

    I’ve never respected a man who shows up to a couple of meetings to call an entire group of people racist for reasons he doesn’t understand.

    When Eden Prairie re-drew elementary school boundaries Orfield stated the parents opposed to 40 minute bus rides for children were racist. What Orfield fails to mention is that his own children attend Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Orfield, the local know-it-all when it comes to everything urban, lives near Lake Harriet. Why does he choose to not send his children to local public schools? Because he’s part of the problem he describes here.

    Don’t stand above us and tell us all why we’re wrong when you are up here with us.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/12/2015 - 09:10 am.

      40 minutes?!

      Oh gosh! My guess is that the parents’ commutes are longer than that. I had an hour+ bus ride when I was in school–no one complained. 40 minutes on a bus in the metro is nothing. On a deep down level, my guess is that, for many complaining, it wasn’t about the 40 minute bus ride.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2015 - 11:05 am.

    A few questions

    First of all, I have to say I’m intrigued by Jeff Klein’s comment:

    “It seems like Mr. Orfield is operating from this 1960s viewpoint where we all aspire to live in the glorious suburbs with their superior school test scores, cul-de-sacs, and Olive Gardens.”

    I think there may be some danger in assuming that the solution is to move people around rather than improve the community they live in. I’m not saying we should strive for separate but equal, but I wonder if we doom some neighborhoods, schools, and families, if we don’t balance the policy?

    Second, I wonder about this clustering and comparing to Portland. For instance the Twin Cities ended up being a primary destination for large Hmong and Somali populations because the State Department has designated MN as some kind of destination of choice for refugees. Since immigrant populations typically cluster for a few generations I’m wondering if that has the effect of exaggerating our segregation? Has Portland absorbed large immigrant populations in the last 40 years? I’m suggesting we don’t have a segregation problem but if you just map out data sometimes it can skew the perspective.

Leave a Reply