What Caused Segregation?


Segregation is a complex social phenomenon that has had significant impacts on societies around the world. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contributed to the emergence and persistence of segregation. By examining historical, political, economic, and social aspects, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of this issue.

Historical Context

The roots of segregation can be traced back to historical events and periods that shaped societies. Understanding the historical context is crucial to understanding the causes of segregation.

Colonialism and Slavery

Colonialism and slavery played a pivotal role in the development of segregation. European colonial powers established systems of racial discrimination and exploitation, which laid the foundation for later segregationist policies. Slavery, in particular, created a racial hierarchy and perpetuated racial divisions.

Jim Crow Era

The Jim Crow era in the United States is another significant historical period that intensified segregation. Following the abolition of slavery, laws were enacted to enforce racial segregation, institutionalizing discrimination against African Americans. These laws affected various aspects of life, including education, housing, public facilities, and voting rights.

Political Factors

Political decisions and policies have had a profound impact on segregation. Understanding the political factors involved is essential for a comprehensive analysis.


Legislation often played a crucial role in promoting and maintaining segregation. Racially discriminatory laws, such as the Jim Crow laws mentioned earlier, were enacted to enforce segregation and ensure the dominance of certain racial groups. These laws were supported by politicians who sought to maintain political control and social order.

Government Policies

Government policies, both at the local and national levels, contributed to segregation. For example, redlining policies in the United States systematically denied mortgage loans and other financial services to minority communities, perpetuating residential segregation. Similarly, zoning regulations and urban planning decisions often led to the concentration of certain racial or ethnic groups in specific areas.

The history of segregation in the USA

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Economic Factors

Economic factors also played a significant role in the development of segregation. Economic inequalities and disparities influenced the spatial distribution of different racial and ethnic groups.

Income Inequality

Income inequality, where certain racial or ethnic groups face systemic disadvantages in accessing education, employment, and wealth accumulation, contributed to segregation. Limited economic opportunities and unequal distribution of resources led to the concentration of marginalized groups in specific neighborhoods with limited access to quality services and amenities.

Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination, both overt and covert, contributed to segregation. Practices such as redlining, restrictive covenants, and racial steering prevented minority groups from accessing housing in desirable neighborhoods. These discriminatory practices perpetuated residential segregation and limited social mobility for marginalized communities.

Social Factors

Various social factors influenced the development and perpetuation of segregation. Examining these factors helps us understand how social attitudes and behaviors contributed to the division of communities.

Racism and Prejudice

Racism and prejudice were key drivers of segregation. Deep-seated racist beliefs and attitudes perpetuated stereotypes, discrimination, and social exclusion. These attitudes, held by individuals and communities, reinforced divisions and hindered efforts to promote integration and equality.

Social Norms and Cultural Influences

Social norms and cultural influences also played a role in segregation. Norms that favored or tolerated racial segregation influenced individual behaviors and societal expectations. Cultural factors, such as the perpetuation of racial stereotypes through media and entertainment, further contributed to the division of communities.


1. What is segregation?

Segregation refers to the separation of different racial, ethnic, or social groups, often resulting in unequal access to resources and opportunities.

2. When did segregation occur?

Segregation has occurred throughout history, with notable periods including the era of colonialism, slavery, and the Jim Crow era in the United States.

3. How did colonialism contribute to segregation?

Colonial powers established systems of racial discrimination and exploitation, creating a racial hierarchy that laid the foundation for later segregationist policies.

4. What were the Jim Crow laws?

The Jim Crow laws were racially discriminatory laws enacted in the United States after the abolition of slavery, enforcing racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans in various aspects of life.

5. How did economic factors contribute to segregation?

Economic inequalities, such as income inequality and housing discrimination, influenced the spatial distribution of different racial and ethnic groups, leading to segregation.

6. What role did government policies play in segregation?

Government policies, such as redlining and zoning regulations, contributed to segregation by perpetuating residential and spatial divisions.

7. What can be done to address segregation?

Addressing segregation requires comprehensive efforts, including legal reforms, educational initiatives, economic empowerment, and promoting social integration and understanding.


Segregation is a complex issue influenced by historical, political, economic, and social factors. Understanding the causes and consequences of segregation is essential for developing effective strategies to promote equality, inclusivity, and social cohesion.

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