Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2005


Published in Great Plains Research 15:2 (Fall 2005). Copyright © 2005 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


Debate persists about the dynamics of segregation and their consequences for Latinos as well as others. This paper draws from the most recent census to examine these dynamics and their consequences in three midwestern cities: Omaha, Lincoln, and Lexington. By shifting the focus to new centers of Latino population growth, we clarify the complexities of Hispanic segregation across the United States. Our findings extend and inform previous debates in several ways. Using the index of dissimilarity, we find evidence of rising segregation in Omaha and Lincoln while Lexington appears a model of integration, at least at first glance. Class factors, in part, account for these disparate patterns. However, the evidence also points to the continuing significance of race/ethnicity. Most telling perhaps is evidence of white flight across all three cities, suggesting that current debates must be broadened to include micropolitan areas like Lexington as well as metropolitan areas. Though problematic on many levels, the dynamics of segregation that we uncover have not had as devastating a set of consequences for Latinos in the Heartland as for others. Rather, split labor markets have created a set of job opportunities in the meatpacking industry that in turn provide a measure of economic stability for Hispanic enclaves, at least in the short term. This finding further pushes scholars to theorize the complex ways in which class factors tied largely to local labor markets intersect with cultural barriers as well as racial bias to shape the fate of Latinos across the United States.