Authors’ introduction

We present an overview of research about racial residential segregation. The first part of the article reviews major debates and findings drawn primarily from the sociological literature. The second part of the article identifies new areas of research that in some cases cross into other disciplines such as geography and urban studies. We show the enduring persistence of racial residential segregation as well as its causes and consequences. We also highlight the ways in which residential segregation can be better understood by including discussions about the varied social and spatial expressions of, and responses to, segregation. The social scientific examination of the patterns and everyday experiences of racial residential segregation remains prolific.

Authors recommend

Krysan, Maria 2002. ‘Community Undesirability in Black and White: Examining Racial Residential Preferences through Community Perceptions.’Social Problems 49: 521–43.

The author presents an empirical critique of research which examines the role that residential preferences play in perpetuating racially segregated residential settlement patterns. The data are drawn from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality. The author analyzes black and white participants’ responses to open-ended questions about community undesirability in 23 communities spread across four US metropolitan areas. Rather than examine residential preferences in relation to hypothetical communities of varying relative racial compositions, the author uses respondents’ subjective perceptions of actual communities, and the reasons they give for their perceptions, as measures of residential preference. The major finding of the article is that preferences are mediated by class- and race-based considerations, such as perceived community crime rates or a community's reputation as a hotbed of racial animosity and hostility.

Logan, John R., Brian J. Stults, and Reynolds Farley 2004. ‘Segregation of Minorities in the Metropolis: Two Decades of Change.’Demography 41: 1–22.

The authors report on national- and metropolitan-level residential segregation trends for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian groups using a cross-sectional analysis of 2000 Census data. They also present findings from a longitudinal analysis of changing residential segregation trends for the period 1980 to 2000. During this time black–white segregation levels, measured by the Index of Dissimilarity, steadily declined nationally and in most major metropolitan areas. However, Hispanic–white and Asian–white segregation levels increased slightly at both the national and metropolitan levels since 1980. The authors estimate regression models to test prevailing hypotheses that seek to account for these changes. Notably, they conclude that black–white segregation remains high especially in older manufacturing centers in the Northeast and Midwest. Levels of Hispanic–white and Asian–white segregation meanwhile are increasing in regions where these minority groups are most heavily concentrated and where they continue to grow due to high levels of foreign-born in-migration.

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This book is a seminal contribution to the scholarly debate about the causes and consequences of black urban poverty in the US. The authors argue that racial residential segregation is the key social process which explains the conditions under which a black urban underclass forms and is maintained. Segregation creates a ‘structural niche’ of concentrated black socioeconomic deprivation wherein, for instance, conditions of welfare dependency become normative and oppositional cultures emerge in reaction to the contradictory values of dominant groups. Massey and Denton claim that segregation is perpetuated by, but also compounds, the effects of institutional racism and white prejudice. To support their claim the authors point to historical trends in levels of racial residential segregation they attribute to public policy as well as private decision-making. The book makes a methodological statement as well in relation to the conceptualization and measurement of residential segregation.

Williams, Richard, Reynold Nesiba, and Eileen Diaz McConnell 2005. ‘The Changing Face of Inequality in Home Mortgage Lending.’Social Problems 52: 181–208.

The authors develop a theoretical framework to account for an emerging ‘new inequality’ in home mortgage lending and home-ownership that has contributed to contemporary patterns of residential segregation. The ‘old inequality’, which was characterized by individual- and neighborhood-level race- and class-based discrimination, gave way in the early 1990s to a new form of inequality based on access to high-cost loans and exposure to predatory lending practices. The authors rely on descriptive metropolitan-level data on home mortgage lending to document rising rates of home-ownership and loan origination among African American and low-income borrowers, and within minority neighborhoods, since the early 1990s. Their interpretation of these data, however, leads them to conclude that despite these gains, the residential segregation generated by the old inequality creates the conditions for the emergence of the new inequality and similar patterns of residential segregation.

Wyly, Elvin K., and Daniel J. Hammel 2004. ‘Gentrification, Segregation, and Discrimination in the American Urban System.’Environment and Planning A 36: 1215–41.

This article is a nice companion to the article by Williams et al. (2005) (see above). The authors examine racial and economic inequalities, such as residential segregation and racial discrimination, related to mortgage reinvestment and gentrification in major US central cities since the early 1990s. Using regression models to analyze home mortgage lending data and credit market characteristics across 30 US cities, the authors find that both early- (‘peripheral’) and late-stage (‘core’) gentrification reproduce familiar patterns of race- and class-based segregation, and are associated with more intensified forms of racial discrimination by property developers, realtors, and lenders.

Online materials

  • 1
    Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) –Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
    This website provides access to publicly reported loan data under the provisions of the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The site allows users to view descriptive information on consumer lending institutions as well as borrower and loan characteristics that can be geocoded by census tract. The site is fairly user-friendly yet provides access to powerful aggregate loan data. Researchers have used these publicly available data to compile profiles of consumer finance and investment trends across metropolitan areas or to begin to document patterns of disinvestment, redlining, and subprime lending.
  • 2
    Racial Residential Segregation Measurement Project (Reynolds Farley, University of Michigan)
    Quoted from the website:
    This website provides you with indexes of racial residential segregation for all states, for all counties, for all metropolitan areas and for all cities of 100,000 or more using information from the Census of 2000. Indexes of dissimilarity, exposure indexes and interracial contact measures are available for five single races and for the three most frequently reported combinations of two races. Segregation measures are provided using three different levels of local area geography: census tracts, block groups, and blocks. The links on this page provide you with access to the calculation of measures, descriptions of their meaning, information about the census data and the measures as well as to a bibliography of major studies of the extent, causes, and consequences of racial residential segregation in the United States.
  • 3
    Windows on Urban Poverty (Paul Jargowsky)
    This website provides interactive features that examine the ‘spatial context’ of urban poverty; that is, the ways in which poor and segregated neighborhoods shape the life chances of impoverished individuals and families. The site has links to reports and policy briefs as well as a mapping tool which allows users to view the spatial expression of concentrated poverty neighborhoods and related demographic information.
  • 4
    Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research (University at Albany, State University of New York)
    The site allows users to access a wide range of social and economic indicators that document conditions of racial residential segregation across the US. The Mumford Center is a leader in reporting on national- and metropolitan-level demographic trends compiled from publicly available US Census data.
  • 5
    The U.S. Census Bureau
    This is the official US government website where users can access US Census data. The site includes a range of interactive mapping tools that can be used to generate profiles of key demographic, social, and economic indicators at varying geographic scales, such as the neighborhood and metropolitan levels. The site also links users to relevant census-based government reports, news releases, and even multimedia content (e.g., video, radio, photography).

Sample syllabus

Course outline and reading assignments

Section 1: Segregation Trends and Patterns

Residential Segregation in Black and White

For an updated and extended discussion of measurement issues see:

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid: Chapter 1: ‘The Missing Link’; Chapter 2: ‘The Construction of the Ghetto’; Chapter 3: ‘The Persistence of the Ghetto’

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1988. ‘The Dimensions of Residential Segregation.’Social Forces 67: 281–315.

Adelman, Robert M., and James Clarke Gocker. 2007. ‘Racial Residential Segregation in Urban America.’Sociology Compass 1: 404–23.

Moving Beyond the Black/White Dichotomy

Logan, John R., Brian J. Stults, and Reynolds Farley. 2004. ‘Segregation of Minorities in the Metropolis: Two Decades of Change.’Demography 41: 1–22.

Fischer, Claude S., Gretchen Stockmayer, Jon Stiles, and Michael Hout. 2004. ‘Distinguishing the Geographic Levels and Social Dimensions of U.S. Metropolitan Segregation, 1960–2000.’Demography 41: 37–59.

White, Michael J., Eric Fong, and Qian Cai. 2003. ‘The Segregation of Asian-origin Groups in the United States and Canada.’Social Science Research 32: 148–67.

Crowder, Kyle D. 1999. ‘Residential Segregation of West Indians in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area: The Roles of Race and Ethnicity.’International Migration Review 33: 79–113.

Section 2: Causes of Residential Segregation

Institutions and Actors

Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. 2003. ‘The Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation.’Annual Review of Sociology 29: 167–207.

Briggs, Xavier de Souza. 2005. Chapter 1 (‘Introduction’) and Chapter 2 (‘More Pluribus, Less Unum? The Changing Geography of Race and Opportunity’).

Tegeler, Phillip. 2005. Chapter 9 (Briggs): ‘The Persistence of Segregation in Government Housing Programs’.

Jackson, Kenneth.1985. Crabgrass Frontier. Chapter 11: ‘Federal Subsidy and the Suburban Dream: How Washington Changed the American Housing Market’.

Group Differences in Socioeconomic Status and Neighborhood Preferences

Logan, John R., Richard D. Alba, Thomas McNulty, and Brian Fischer. 1996. ‘Making a Place in the Metropolis: Locational Attainment in Cities and Suburbs.’Demography 33: 443–53.

Alba, Richard D., John R. Logan, Brian J. Stults, Gilbert Marzan, and Wenquan Zhang. 1999. ‘Immigrant Groups in the Suburbs: A Reexamination of Suburbanization and Spatial Assimilation.’American Sociological Review 64: 446–60.

Harris, David R. 2001. ‘Why are Whites and Blacks Averse to Black Neighbors?’Social Science Research 30: 100–16.

Krysan, Maria, and Reynolds Farley. 2002. ‘The Residential Preferences of Blacks: Do they Explain Persistent Segregation?’Social Forces 80: 937–80.

Emerson, Michael O., George Yancey, and Karen J. Chai. 2001. ‘Does Race Matter in Residential Segregation? Exploring the Preferences of White Americans.’American Sociological Review 66: 922–35.

Mortgage Lending Discrimination

Yinger, John. 1995. Closed Doors, Opportunities Lost: The Continuing Costs of Housing Discrimination. Chapter 2 (‘The Housing Discrimination Study’); Chapter 3 (‘Discrimination in Housing’); Chapter 7 (‘The Impact of Housing Discrimination on Housing Quality, Racial Segregation, and Neighborhood Change’).

Ross, Stephen L., and Margery Austin Turner. 2005. ‘Housing Discrimination in Metropolitan America: Explaining Changes between 1989 and 2000.’Social Problems 52: 152–80.

Williams, Richard, Reynold Nesiba, and Eileen Diaz McConnell. 2005. ‘The Changing Face of Inequality in Home Mortgage Lending.’Social Problems 52: 181–208.

Freidman, Samantha, and Gregory D. Squires. 2005. ‘Does the Community Reinvestment Act Help Minorities Access Traditionally Inaccessible Neighborhoods?’Social Problems 52: 209–31.

The Search for Housing

Turner, Margery, and Stephen Ross. 2005. Chapter 4 (Briggs): ‘How Racial Discrimination Affects the Search for Housing.’

Farley, Reynolds. 1996. ‘Racial Differences in the Search for Housing: Do Whites and Blacks Use the Same Techniques to Find Housing?’Housing Policy Debate 7: 367–85.

Massey, Douglas S., and Garvey Lundy. 2001. ‘Use of Black English and Racial Discrimination in Urban Housing Markets: New Methods and Findings.’Urban Affairs Review 36: 452–69.

Feagin, Joe. 1994. Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience. Chapter 6: ‘Seeking a Good Home and Neighborhood.’

Section 3: Consequences of Residential Segregation

Poverty Concentration and Hypersegregation

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. Chapter 5: ‘The Creation of Underclass Communities’; Chapter 6: ‘The Perpetuation of the Underclass’.

Jargowsky, Paul A. 1997. Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City. Chapter 5: ‘Theory and Evidence on Inner-City Poverty.’

Wilkes, Rima, and John Iceland. 2004. ‘Hypersegregation in the Twenty-First Century: An Update and Analysis.’Demography 41: 23–36.

Roy, Kevin. 2004. ‘Three-Block Fathers: Spatial Perceptions and Kin-Work in Low-Income African American Neighborhoods.’Social Problems 51: 528–48.

Neighborhood Effects

Sampson, Robert J., Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon-Rowley. 2002. ‘Assessing “Neighborhood Effects”: Social Processes and New Directions in Research.’Annual Review of Sociology 28: 443–78.

LaVeist, Thomas A. 1993. ‘Segregation, Poverty, and Empowerment: Health Consequences for African Americans.’The Milbank Quarterly 71: 41–64.

Rosenbaum, Emily, and Laura E. Harris. 2001. ‘Low-Income Families in Their New Neighborhoods: The Short-Term Effects of Moving from Chicago's Public Housing.’Journal of Family Issues 22: 183–210.

Wagmiller, Robert L. 2007. ‘Race and the Spatial Segregation of Jobless Men in Urban America.’Demography 44: 539–62.

Crime and Neighborhoods

Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. Preface, Introduction (‘Down Germantown Avenue’) and Chapter 1 (‘Decent and Street Families’).

Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. 1999. Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class. Chapter 4: ‘Neighborhood Networks and Crime’.

Massey, Douglas S. 2001. ‘Segregation and Violent Crime in Urban America.’ Pp. 317–44 in Problem of the Century: Racial Stratification in the United States edited by Elijah Anderson and Douglas S. Massey.

Logan, John R., and Brian J. Stults. 1999. ‘Racial Differences in Exposure to Crime: The City and Suburbs of Cleveland in 1990.’Criminology 37: 251–76.

Section 4: Mobility, Class, and Public Policy

Residential Mobility

Lee, Barrett A., R.S. Oropesa, and James W. Kanan. 1994. ‘Neighborhood Context and Residential Mobility.’Demography 31: 249–70.

South, Scott J., and Kyle D. Crowder. 1998. ‘Leaving the ’Hood: Residential Mobility between Black, White, and Integrated Neighborhoods.’American Sociological Review 63: 17–26.

Crowder, Kyle D., Scott J. South, and Erick Chavez. 2006. ‘Wealth, Race, and Inter-Neighborhood Migration.’American Sociological Review 71: 72–94.

Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. 2000. ‘The Limits of Out-Migration for the Black Middle Class.’Journal of Urban Affairs 22: 225–41.

Intersection of Race and Class: The Black Middle Class

Pattillo, Mary. 2005. ‘Black Middle-Class Neighborhoods.’Annual Review of Sociology 31: 305–29.

Cashin, Sheryll D. 2001. ‘Middle-Class Black Suburbs and the State of Integration: A Post-Integrationist Vision for Metropolitan America.’Cornell Law Review 86: 729–76.

Adelman, Robert M. 2004. ‘Neighborhood Opportunities, Race, and Class: The Black Middle Class and Residential Segregation.’City and Community 3: 43–63.

Lacy, Karyn. 2004. ‘Black Spaces, Black Places: Strategic Assimilation and Identity Construction in Middle-Class Suburbia.’Ethnic and Racial Studies 27: 908–30.

Public Policy and Politics

Rubinowitz, Leonard S., and James E. Rosenbaum. 2000. Crossing the Class and Color Lines: From Public Housing to White Suburbia.

Briggs, Xavier de Souza. 2005. Chapter 14: ‘Politics and Policy: Changing the Geography of Opportunity’.

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. Chapter 8: ‘The Future of the Ghetto’.

Project ideas

US Census Data Assignment

(Adapted from an assignment developed by Nancy Denton, University at Albany, State University of New York)

Your task for this assignment is to compare one US metropolitan area to another one. Your focus of the comparison should be on key sociodemographic variables including, but not limited to, the overall population size of the areas, the racial and ethnic composition of the areas, the socioeconomic standing of the areas, the housing quality, what types of occupational opportunities exist, the level of immigration in the areas, the level of residential segregation between groups in the areas, among others.

You can choose any two metropolitan areas but they must be defined as such by the Census Bureau (i.e., make sure you obtain information at the metropolitan level). There should be some component of change; that is, identify how these variables have changed over time (an ideal strategy would be to focus on 1980 to 2000 changes, but there could be other strategies). In the end, you want a five-page report comparing the two places. Which one would be better to live in? Why? From whose perspective?

Potential data sources include:

Urban Ethnography Assignment

(Adapted from an assignment developed by Charles Gallagher, Georgia State University)

Write a short ethnography about an urban, public space. Your task is to choose a public space (broadly defined) and examine who uses the space, how the space is used, and the interactions that occur between people in that space. Pay close attention to issues like (but others too) the racial and ethnic background of the people using the space, the socioeconomic reasons which explain the location of the site (e.g., exchange versus use values; urban development), and the extent to which the space is actually ‘public’ (i.e., are there restrictions to the space like bars separating benches in half?).

You can observe any public space. For example, the extent to which a park is actually public is continually and consistently contested and negotiated. What about transportation nodes? Malls? Restaurants?

Comparative Urban Assignment

Your task for this assignment is to review three scholarly articles about a city outside of the US. Your focus can be on any aspect of the city but you should include some general information about the area including, but not limited to, the geographic and demographic size of the area, the socioeconomic standing of the area, the residential segregation of groups in the area, among other issues.

You can choose any city or metropolitan area as long as it is outside of the US. In the end, you want a five-page report reviewing the three articles with a brief introduction about the city (this information could be gleaned from one of the articles).

The main international urban journal, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, will be very useful for this assignment, but you can obtain articles from any peer-reviewed journal. Make sure to use only scholarly journals rather than popular magazines, newspaper articles, or the internet. Rely on the social science literature.