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Density Zoning and Class Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Jonathan T. Rothwell


Douglas S. Massey

Princeton University - Department of Sociology

December 31, 2008

Objectives. Socioeconomic segregation rose substantially in U.S. cities during the final decades of the 20th century and we argue zoning regulations are an important cause for this increase. Methods. We measure neighborhood economic segregation using the Gini Coefficient for neighborhood income inequality and the poor-affluent exposure index. These outcomes are regressed on an index of density zoning developed from the work of Pendall for 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, while controlling for other metropolitan characteristics likely to affect urban housing markets and class segregation. Results. For both 2000 and changes from 1990 to 2000, OLS estimates reveal a strong relationship between density zoning and income segregation, and replication using 2SLS suggests that the relationship is causal. We also show that zoning is associated with higher inter-jurisdictional inequality. Conclusions. Metropolitan areas with suburbs that restrict the density of residential construction are more segregated on the basis of income than those with more permissive density zoning regimes. This arrangement perpetuates and exacerbates racial and class inequality in the United States.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 36

Keywords: inequality, land regulation, segregation, zoning

JEL Classification: R00, R14, R52, I3

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Date posted: December 31, 2008 ; Last revised: June 5, 2014

Suggested Citation

Rothwell, Jonathan T. and Massey, Douglas S., Density Zoning and Class Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas (December 31, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1322128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1322128

Contact Information

Jonathan T. Rothwell (Contact Author)
Gallup ( email )
901 F St NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States
Douglas S. Massey
Princeton University - Department of Sociology ( email )
Princeton, NJ
United States
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