Geography of Historical Racial-Ethnic Segregation: Comparing Charleston, SC and Buffalo, NY in 1940
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Spatial distribution patterns of social groups can be studied through the use of digital “boundary” files, or “shapefiles,” and data from the U.S. Census. Shapefiles are readily available for recent decades but they are not available for 1940 and earlier. QGIS, an open-source Geographic Information System, has been utilized to create shapefiles that represent enumeration districts of Charleston, South Carolina, and Buffalo, New York using archived photos of enumeration district maps used in the 1940 U.S. Census. Through work with Dr. Mark Fossett, a professor in Texas A&M’s Sociology department, the shapefiles have been analyzed in combination with newly released historical census data from 1940 to examine racial ethnic segregation and patterns of foreign-born populations. This work contributes to a larger project investigating residential distributions of racial and ethnic subpopulations within these, and other, cities. As comparable maps do not currently exist, the shapefiles and maps constitute new and valuable resources for the study of ethnic segregation and urban population distributions in major US cities in 1940 and will permit comparisons of segregation patterns in other decades. These maps will be especially valuable tools in this area of study as maps reveal patterns that cannot be easily identified via statistical analysis and they also communicate patterns effectively to broad audiences that are not trained in using technical summary measures of segregation. In addition to contributing to Dr. Fossett’s project, the shapefiles will be available for several other research projects that are underway using the 1940 data at the Texas Federal Statistical Research Data Center at Texas A&M University.
Everett, Laura B (2017). Geography of Historical Racial-Ethnic Segregation: Comparing Charleston, SC and Buffalo, NY in 1940. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from