How can I get neighborhood diversity information before moving?
September 3, 2017 8:55 AM   Subscribe

While looking at places the other day, I saw some Nazi-affiliated signage in neighboring houses, and it freaked me out pretty badly. They don't usually advertise, so how can I find and avoid racial enclaves within more diverse cities I am unfamiliar with where this kind of stuff is more likely?

The city demographic data where we are looking looks semi-diverse, but it's a big city with a lot of different neighborhoods, and it's low on walkability so we don't really see people out and about.

I seem to remember there used to be some neighborhood-level census tools that you could zoom in and out to look at several blocks at a time, but I can't find them now and don't know if they were election based or I am just crazy.

If this is impossible, feel free to tell me that as well, I'm just really freaked out moving right now and having visions of moving into a Stepford community and terrible things happening.

Or if you have Reasons why I don't need to be that scared I will hear those as well.
posted by corb to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
American Fact Finder may be the census tool you're thinking of.

The NYTimes feature "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" visualizes a free different types of diversity.
posted by entropone at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

School districts often publish ethnic data on their individual school websites. This can give you an idea of who lives in the neighborhood (well, sort of, at least an idea of who has children that live in the neighborhood).

That doesn't mean you're not going to see some racist imagery; we live in a diverse-for-our-city neighborhood, and we still see borderline racist imagery from time to time. However, our day to day is full of chill interactions with everyone of every stripe (except for those dudes slinging heroin in our hood...uhhhg).
posted by furnace.heart at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Policymap maps census data for the whole country, and you can zoom in to the neighborhood level and select demographic indicators like predominant race and percentage of residents of each major race/ethnic group tracked by the census (as well as a ton of other categories like voter turnout, margin of victory for major national elections, income, home values, eduction and so many other things).
posted by snaw at 9:13 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

After the last presidential election there was a map floating around of how people voted in different precincts in my town. It would be an oversimplification to assume that you'd be happy and safe in a blue neighborhood or unhappy and unsafe in a red neighborhood and I wouldn't base the decision solely on that data, but it might be one of many things to look at and consider.
posted by bunderful at 9:37 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

There was an article in my local paper today about this very topic.
posted by _Mona_ at 3:16 PM on September 3, 2017

Wherever you are thinking of - search for the "place" yardsale on Facebook. On mine, "Mytown Yardsale" someone posted about a refugee information meeting. then all hell broke loose. I had no idea how many racists I live next to. and how freely they talk about it on FB. another thing that is everywhere is "mytown rant and rave". I keep my FB account just to keep informed about these assholes.

In other words, on FB a new local meeting place is some variation of town + yardsale and people talk about everything - not just yardsales.
posted by cda at 4:07 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

If census tools aren't helping, you can try the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Map

I'd also check the forums at City-Data. I'd suss out the forums first but you could ask there. YMMV on the asking part, probably, if it looks like the forum for that area is full of openly or thinly-veiled racists.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:38 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to tell you not to freak out, but a bunch of my social-justice-warrior friends have been encountering white supremacist propaganda in their previously not-horrible towns. I've also read several articles recently about how the white supremacists are targeting liberal/diverse areas specifically to generate a large response against them (e.g., Berkeley). Do whatever you need and want to do to feel safe, because you should absolutely trust yourself more than you trust any of us, but my (privileged, white) perspective right now is that white supremacists are specifically targeting places that are know for being diverse and inclusive in order to create controversy and media coverage.
posted by lazuli at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't know how effective this is, but I look at the supermarkets. A neighborhood that has an Asian market and a Mexican supermarket and a supermarket that carries a ton of kosher stuff is more likely to be welcoming to different types of people than the place that has a single ~ethnic aisle~ in their megamart, you know?
posted by mishafletch at 6:23 PM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Definitely check out the grocery stores. I just moved about 5 miles and the tea and coffee aisle of my old Safeway was a cornucopia of interesting hot drinks from around the world. The new one is 90% k-cups. This whole city is diverse but I moved to a wealthier neighborhood, and a much more boring one apparently.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 AM on September 4, 2017

Grocery stores, thirded. Also, if the location you're considering isn't far (cross-country), you could do regular shopping or the like in that area. We learned a lot about where we wanted to move based on the Target we shopped at.

Also consider City Data's forums as an input. It's not going to be perfect, but there are some threads we used before we moved that were useful.

Small side note: on an open house we saw a prominent "Don't Tread on Me" flag a neighbor had in their yard. Automatic disqualifier. You'll have your own signposts, so do trust your instincts.
posted by hijinx at 6:21 AM on September 4, 2017

I agree that supermarkets are a good indicator of neighborhood diversity, but I'm not sure they're always a great indicator of how, well, white people in the area feel about them. I'm thinking of the very blue areas of Santa Monuca and the more diverse Venice, where almost no one voted for Trump, but residents have no qualms saying awful things about affordable housing, homeless people, and pearl-clutching over how many bad hombres the new Expo train would bring to the area. And that's just what they say out loud.

Come to think of it, I wonder if you should try asking a very specific question here about specific locations that a local would be able to answer. Thanks to affordable senior housing my mom lived in a very ritzy part of town that isn't very diverse but her neighbors were appalled when they found out one of them voted for Trump. They're probably still whispering about it. I still think City-Data can be helpful, but I think here you can ask that (as anon, if needed) and people will immediately get it.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:58 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is obviously a broad brushstroke, but be careful about neighborhoods with a lot of pickup trucks.
posted by gentian at 2:55 PM on September 5, 2017

I didn't this of this earlier because I have it filed under "safety" rather than "diversity," but it could still be helpful.

At a safety workshop for women several years ago, the cop running the workshop told us, when moving to a new neighborhood, to go to the precinct meeting. See what people are complaining about. If they are complaining about shootings in the street or drug sales in front of the Walgreens, don't move there. If they are complaining about noise and and other non-safety related issues, that means they probably don't have more serious things to complain about.

This could be helpful in your case as well - are they calling for more diverse representation in the police force or dog-whistling complaints about ethnic groups or something else entirely. But a quicker and easier way to get there these days would be to join the NextDoor community for that neighborhood and see what people are complaining about there - and what the priorities seem to be in general. I think you need to have a legit address to sign up, but there's probably a workaround.
posted by bunderful at 4:06 PM on September 5, 2017

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