LOS ANGELES, DEC. 29 -- Challenging the axiom that suburban homes and better jobs for minorities will help integrate American society, a University of Chicago analysis released today of U.S. census data said that middle-income black Americans are still largely segregated despite their improving economic status.

Arthur Young, a top Census Bureau official scheduled to retire this week, said that the revelation did not surprise him and that Nixon administration officials had cut off similar federal studies 15 years ago because they feared evidence of a still-segregated society would be politically explosive.

"Despite the advent of fair housing legislation, more tolerant white racial attitudes, and a growing black middle class with income sufficient to promote residential mobility, the segregation of blacks in large cities has hardly changed" between the 1970 and 1980 censuses, concluded University of Chicago researchers Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton.

In contrast, Latino and Asian Americans with improved incomes and new suburban homes are much more likely to have Anglo neighbors. "It is not race that matters, but black race," Massey and Denton said. Their figures show that black Latinos, for instance, are less likely to be living near Anglos than are white Latinos.

The authors, in their study of 60 major U.S. cities for the American Sociological Review, said there seemed to be a significant increase in housing integration for blacks in southwestern and western cities, such as Anaheim, Calif.; Austin, Tex.; Portland, Ore., and Denver, where there were relatively few blacks. Large northern and eastern cities showed little change and "in Detroit, Newark, New York, and Philadelphia, the likelihood of {black} contact with Anglos actually decreased," they said.

"The only real exception to this pattern was Washington, D.C., where 'gentrification' apparently was responsible for a decrease in black spatial isolation {a measure of housing segregation}, although it is arguable whether this type of integration represents a stable outcome," Massey and Denton said.

Young, the outgoing Census Bureau housing division chief, said his agency had begun to develop data on housing segregation of blacks, elderly and other groups in the early 1970s, but had to drop such work at White House insistence. "I've tried many times to get HUD {the Department of Housing and Urban Development} interested in this," he said, "but whether it is Democrats or Republicans in charge, they stay away from this like the plague."

He said people in his agency told him, "Art, if you initiate that study, we're going to see some cuts in appropriations." A veteran of 35 years of government service, Young said he would not have spoken of the government's reluctance to study the issue and his reaction to it if he were not so close to retirement.

Massey, a sociology professor and director of the university's Population Research Center, and Denton, a research associate at the center, received a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for their study.

They developed a "residential dissimilarity" index, which can be viewed as a 100-point segregation score with 100 being the most segregated situation. The segregation score for blacks in New York increased from 81 in 1970 to 82 in 1980 and in Chicago dropped slightly, from 92 to 88.

In Chicago, the score for Asian Americans dropped from 56 to 44. The Latino score there increased from 58 to 64, and seemed influenced largely by an influx of low-paid immigrants who do not speak English. The study noted that Latinos and Asians, unlike blacks, appear to come in much greater contact with Anglos once their incomes increase.

In Washington, the black segregation score dropped from 81 to 70, while the Latino score slipped slightly from 32 to 30 and the Asian score dropped from 36 to 27.

The study noted that neither socioeconomic status nor availability of housing had an impact on black access to integrated suburban living. Blacks have the lowest average suburban residency rate of the three minority groups -- 28 percent compared to 48 percent for Latinos and 53 percent for Asians, according to the study.

Massey said blacks either are moving to suburbs in numbers too small to make a difference or they are moving into segregated suburbs. "If the black middle class has abandoned the black poor, it has not been by moving to Anglo neighborhoods, at least on a significant scale," the study concluded.

"The high degree of black residential segregation, and its relative imperviousness to socioeconomic influences, suggest that race continues to be a fundamental cleavage in American society."