Both historic outcastes and Burakumin have lived in segregated communities of one sort or another. In the feudal age their segregation was strictly enforced and people of outcaste status were forced to live in undesirable locations, often on the outskirts of or completely outside a mainstream community. The modern Japanese officially have abolished such segregation, but it continues to exist in the form of de facto ghettos, recognized as "Tokushu Buraku" (special community), or simply buraku. The term "Dōwa Chiku" (assimilation district) is often used in the same fashion.
The conditions in buraku are typically poor, characterized by inferior sanitation, insufficient space and privacy, old housing structures, poorly maintained streets, and a lack of public and recreational areas. Improvement of living conditions has been a great concern for Burakumin. The government has made efforts over the last several decades to improve the living environment and educational opportunities in buraku. Roughly half of Burakumin live in Dōwa Chiku, which are designated target areas for the assimilation projects. In these districts, government-funded programs are being executed to improve housing, sanitation, and public services so as to match the living standard of buraku to that of mainstream communities.
Yet the reality of the buraku is less than ideal. Economic hardship and discrimination deeply rooted in Japanese people, both mainstream and Burakumin, are probably two major reasons for the slow change and persistence of age-old issues regarding the buraku.