Residential Segregation, Omaha Nebraska

A recent analysis of census tract and household income data by the Pew Research Center shows that residential segregation by income has increased over the past three decades. This increase is related to a more general trend of a rising income inequality across the United States, which is reflected in a shrinking of neighborhoods that are either predominantly middle class or mixed income. And, despite this rise in segregation by income, segregation by race still trumps income as a predictor of where people live. The wealth gap between the average white and nonwhite American family is large and has even expanded since the Great Recession began.

The consequences of such segregation for low-income minority communities propagates these inequalities. Without access to more affluent neighborhoods, low-income minority families are also denied access to the benefits that exist in such communities. Communities in which 20% or more of the population is below the poverty level have fewer public and private resources, including quality schools, recreational areas, and grocery stores. The effects of residential segregation include: political, cultural and linguistic isolation; insufficient tax base for schools; low rates of homeownership; crime related to a high concentration of poverty; a lack of role models for youth; lack of food and clothing businesses; an entrepreneurship gap; and family disorganization.

This soundscape displays residential segregation in Omaha, Nebraska through the musical representation of population attributes of neighborhoods in the northern and western parts of the city. Musical pitches were calculated based on the proportions of the given attributes in the population. Population attributes are presented one at a time, first with North Omaha in the right ear and West Omaha in the left ear. All 12 population attributes are cycled through twice, once with North and West Omaha presented separately and sequentially and then at 2:34 minutes into the composition, the musical lines for North Omaha and West Omaha are presented together, as a musical display of desegregation.