Land Use Regulation and Residential Segregation: Does Zoning Matter?

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Christopher R. Berry

Christopher R. Berry

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy


Critics of zoning have attributed to it much of the responsibility for the persistent and severe patterns of racial and economic segregation that characterize urban America. Yet, little empirical evidence has been produced to demonstrate the degree to which observed patterns of residential segregation are attributable to zoning. This article explores that question by comparing patterns of residential segregation in Houston, the nation's only unzoned large city, and Dallas, a similar zoned city. Houston's unique system of nonzoning is described. The index of dissimilarity is used to measure segregation by race, tenure, and housing type, and a variation of the index is developed to measure segregation by income. No significant differences in residential segregation are evident between the two cities. These results suggest that, absent zoning, private voluntary institutions produce nearly identical patterns of residential segregation.

Suggested Citation

Berry, Christopher R., Land Use Regulation and Residential Segregation: Does Zoning Matter?. American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 251-274, 2001. Available at SSRN:

Christopher R. Berry (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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