Legally enforced segregation might have ended decades ago, but a new study finds that white families tend to move to white neighborhoods and black families tend to move to black neighborhoods, even as the country's racial diversity keeps expanding.

The finding is part of a study for the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association, called “Neighborhood Diversity, Metropolitan Constraints, and Household Migration.” Researchers tracked data on where 44,808 black families and 57,415 white families moved between 1977 and 2005.

It's a trend the Baltimore area knows well. This study using 2010 Census data shows that the Baltimore region had the 16th highest amount of black-white residential segregation among metro areas with large black populations. And this 2001 paper bemoans similar patterns locally.

More multiethnic neighborhoods exist in the U.S. than have in the past, but those communities are typically not the destination for black families, and even less so for white families, according to Kyle Crowder, a sociology professor at the University of Washington  and the new study’s lead author.

Families tend to integrate in areas that have lots of new houses and large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, Crowder said.

He said the study points to a need for leaders to actively address lack of neighborhood diversity, which leads to problems such as racial disparities in health and exposure to pollution.

“When people say, ‘Segregation is going away’ and ‘We don’t need to worry about it anymore,’ those are messages that people will latch onto quickly,” Crowder said in a statement. “Unfortunately, those types of statements are just untrue.”

According to the breakdown of the data:

- Of the 9,940 moves that black families made between 1977 and 2005, about 44 percent were to predominantly black neighborhoods, 5 percent to predominantly white neighborhoods, about 18 percent to multiethnic neighborhoods and the rest -- nearly 34 percent -- to other types of neighborhoods.

- Of the 8,823 moves that white families made during the 28-year period, about 57 percent were to predominantly white neighborhoods, 2 percent to predominantly black neighborhoods, about 6 percent to multiethnic neighborhoods and the rest -- nearly 36 percent -- to other types of neighborhoods.

Research also showed that the rate at which white and black families moved to neighborhoods with high concentrations of their own race varied by region and was shaped by other demographic factors, such as political ideology and economic standing.

Characteristics likely to limit the amount of integration within neighborhoods include already existing residential segregation, poverty and the existence of well-populated suburbs.

The study was co-authored by Jeremy Pais, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, and Scott J. South, a sociology professor at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

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