Residential segregation: Wikis


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Residential segregation refers to the physical separation of two groups based on residence and housing [1], or a form of segregation that "sorts population groups into various neighborhood contexts and shapes the living environment at the neighborhood level." [2]


Residential segregation in the United States

Most commonly seen in the United States is a dominant/majority group (whites) imposing segregation on a subordinate/minority group (African-Americans). [1] It is a fact that “blacks traditionally experience severe prejudice and discrimination in urban housing markets” and they “tend to live in systematically disadvantaged neighborhoods.” [3] Moreover, this ongoing segregation has lasting effects on African-American families and their ability to buy and sell homes. [4]. This systematic disadvantage is an example of institutionalized discrimination.

Why residential segregation?

Residential segregation can result from what is known as institutional discrimination, or the “denial of opportunities and equal rights to individuals and groups that results from the normal operations of society.” [5] The collaboration between institutional discrimination and residential segregation has inadvertently created a dual housing market which is widely received because of sizable literature tracking and documentation by researchers. This dual housing market is one “segregated by race, where African Americans suffer limited housing selections as a result of institutional and overt discrimination.” [6] Due to an assortment of practices, such as real estate agents exercising overt discrimination and lending institutions performing institutional discrimination, the dual housing market that disadvantages African-Americans is maintained, perpetuated, and often augmented at the expense of equal treatment for the minority group. [7]

Intertwined modes of discrimination

Residential segregation which tend to advantage whites at the expense of African Americans in the U.S. is manifested in two intertwined modes of discrimination: redlining and steering.



Redlining, as institutional discrimination, can be summed up as “the pattern of discrimination against people trying to buy homes in minority and racially changing neighborhoods.” [8] As a practice, however, redlining can be revealed in several different ways which all legally segregate whites from African Americans and other ethnic and minority groups.

Redlining originally comes from loaners actually marking certain neighborhoods red on “appraisal maps,” meaning these neighborhoods were ineligible because there were too many black families living there already. [9] In this example, redlining was simply a term to refer to the practice of discrimination in mortgage lending. Furthermore, redlining was utilized by banks where they procedurally “code…neighborhoods ‘red’—the lowest possible rating—on their loan evaluations, thereby making it next to impossible to get a mortgage for a home” in districts where real estate agents wanted to maintain the racial make-up of white communities. [10] Lastly, by using redlining, banks and mortgage lenders do not make loans available to minority and ethnic groups. Inevitably, there is a decline in the frequency of loans and the amount of loan money made available to minorities; less encouragement of accepting minority loan applications and “marketing policies that exclude such minority areas.” [4] Elevated mortgage costs and less desirable terms on loans result from the weakening competition in the mortgage market, along with a reduction in finance options for purchasing homes for borrowers in minority neighborhoods. [4]


In conjunction with redlining comes the overt discrimination mentioned above in the form of steering. This is an occurrence "in which agents do not disclose properties on the market to qualified African-American home seekers" and steer them to neighborhoods that have a similar racial make-up as the home seeker. They are especially steered away from predominantly white communities. [10]

Why redlining and steering?

In essence, a reasoning behind redlining and steering is “white neighborhoods…[are] supposed to stay white” and retain a predominantly white racial make-up. This is a way in which the dominant race can have an advantage over other minority groups and preserve their privilege and superiority. [9] According to Conley, “black housing may be worth less because the majority group (whites) controls the market” and inherently “segregation is in this group’s interest” to preserve this control. [11]

White flight and its consequences

Data on home equity shows that homes in African American communities increase at a rate significantly slower than that of homes in white communities. The underlying reason for this phenomenon is that homes in white neighborhoods are viable options for any buyer who can afford them. Homes in neighborhoods that contain more than twenty-percent African-American households, conversely, are not seen as viable options to every person who may afford them. Whites may not want to live in a neighborhood that contains a significant number of African-Americans because they feel the schools their children will be sent to will not be adequate, that their home equity will not increase as much as if they were to buy a home in a white neighborhood, or that there may be too much crime. Regardless of the real motive behind moving out of a neighborhood that is becoming “too black” or moving into a neighborhood that is “more white,” whites can easily explain their behavior as non-racist by attributing their decision to financial reasons. The potential buyer's market for any given person trying to sell a home in a neighborhood with many African-American residents is smaller, as a result of whites that are unwilling to move into the neighborhood. With the lowered demand for homes in neighborhoods containing African-American residents, the equilibrium price at which a given house may be sold in such neighborhoods is pushed down. [12]

After a threshold is reached where a neighborhood becomes approximately twenty-percent or more African-American, white flight takes place, which is responsible for the polarization of neighborhoods by race. The segregation of neighborhoods that takes place is responsible for decreased economic opportunities among African-Americans, largely due to decreased opportunities for social networking. A study conducted by Douglas Massey compiled data from neighborhoods in Philadelphia, providing probability estimates about the likelihood of contact between a black or white individual having contact with different categories of people. Residents of black neighborhoods are more likely to have contact with high school dropouts, female-headed families, families on welfare, and unemployed workers. Some researchers believe that this phenomenon is the result of the fact that many blacks are likely to be uneducated, have children out of wedlock, be welfare recipients, and to engage in criminal activities. Therefore, residents of all-black or majority black neighborhoods are more likely to become acquainted with people low on the social status spectrum. These residents, in turn, are restricted from social networks that allow them to hear about and receive offers for higher-paying jobs that would allow them to achieve higher class status. [13]

Preferences for racial composition of neighborhoods

Is residential segregation a product of personal desires for certain types of neighbors? Camille Charles, on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, gathered data from the Los Angeles Survey of Urban Inequality to determine the preferences of White, Latino, Black and Asian residents for racial makeup of neighborhoods. The study concludes that residents always favor having more “in-group” residents, or residents of their own race, than “out-group” residents. Whites had the highest degree of preference for having the majority of residents “co-ethnic” or of the same race. Whites also had the highest degree of preference for completely homogeneous (i.e. 100% white residents) racial makeup. Additionally, among Whites, Latino, and Asians, blacks are universally the least-preferred out group neighbors. Some researchers contend that this reaction may stem from the fact that statistically speaking, black neighborhoods have higher percentages of high school dropouts, single-parent families, and the unemployed. Therefore, these neighborhoods were likely to experience significantly higher rates of property crime, violent crime, and decreased home equity appreciation. In addition, schools populated by all-black or majority black students were found to have dramatically lower scores on standardized tests. The phenomenon of white flight therefore may apply to all non-black races fleeing from neighborhoods with too many black residents. As a result of such data, the average respondent did not desire the high degree of racial integration that is actually present in their particular neighborhood. The average respondent indicated a desire for neighborhoods where their own race makes up at least 20% or more of the neighborhood than any other race. However, evidence presented by the survey may indicate a white flight phenomenon largely fueled by economic reasons, as opposed to outright prejudice. An alternate explanation to the survey data is that respondents are answering in socially desirable ways that are different from their actual preferences. [14]


Although it is not always connected to race and can sometimes be generalized by class, gentrification or urban renewal is another form of residential segregation. Gentrification has historically been defined as higher income newcomers displacing lower income residents from up-and-coming urban neighborhoods. The concept has been understood as reflecting the residential turnover of an area that was predominantly composed of residents of color, to one populated by higher income whites. Yet definitions of gentrification fail to mention this racial component. Critical race theory is used to examine race as an implicit assumption that merits investigation as demographic changes in the U.S. challenge these class-based definitions. [15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Schaeffer, Richard T. Race and Ethnicity in the United States. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. page 28
  2. ^ Kawachi, Ichiro and Lisa F. Berkman. Neighborhoods and Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. page 265.
  3. ^ Gallagher. Charles A. Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity. 3rd ed. Bostion: McGraw-Hill, 2007. page 225
  4. ^ a b c Shapiro, Thomas M. The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. page 108.
  5. ^ Schaeffer, Richard T. Race and Ethnicity in the United States. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. page 92
  6. ^ Conley, Dalton. Many factors are involved in the phenomenon of residential discrimination. For instance, a preponderance of evidence suggests that majority black neighborhoods typical experience higher crime rates, lower home values, and a general diminished quality of life. Being Black, Living in the Red. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. page 39.
  7. ^ Conley, Dalton. Being Black, Living in the Red. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. page 39-40.
  8. ^ Schaeffer, Richard T. Race and Ethnicity in the United States. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. page 104.
  9. ^ a b Schwalbe, Michael. Rigging the Game: How Inequality is Reproduced in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University press, 2008. page 73.
  10. ^ a b Conley, Dalton. Being Black, Living in the Red. Berkely: University of California Press, 1999. page 6.
  11. ^ Conley, Dalton. Being Black, Living in the Red. Berkely: University of California Press, 1999. page 38.
  12. ^ Shapiro, Thomas M. 2004. The Hidden Cost of Being African American. How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.
  13. ^ Massey, Douglas S. The Effects of Racial Segregation on Black Social and Economic Well-Being. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
  14. ^ Charles, Camille. “Neighborhood Racial Composition Preferences: Evidence from a Multiethnic Metropolis.” Social Problems Aug. 2000: 379-407.
  15. ^ Martinez-Cosio,Maria. "Coloring housing changes: Reintroducing race into gentrification" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, TBA, New York, New York City, Aug 11, 2007.

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