Separate When Equal? Racial Inequality and Residential Segregation
52 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2006
Date Written: October 2005
Standard intuition suggests that residential segregation in the United States will decline when racial inequality narrows. In this paper, we hypothesize that the opposite will occur. We note that middle-class black neighborhoods are in short supply in many U.S. metropolitan areas, forcing highly educated blacks either to live in predominantly white high-socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods or in more black lower-SES neighborhoods. Increases in the proportion of highly educated blacks in a metropolitan area may then lead to the emergence of new middle-class black neighborhoods, causing increases in residential segregation. We formalize this mechanism using a simple model of residential choice that permits endogenous neighborhood formation. Our primary empirical analysis, based on across-MSA evidence from the 2000 Census, indicates that this mechanism does indeed operate: as the proportion of highly educated blacks in an MSA increases, so the segregation of blacks at all education levels increases. Time-series evidence provides additional support for the hypothesis, showing that an increase in black educational attainment in a metropolitan area between 1990-2000 significantly increases segregation. Our analysis has important implications for the evolution of both residential segregation and racial socioeconomic inequality, drawing attention to a negative feedback loop likely to inhibit reductions in segregation and racial inequality over time.
Keywords: segregation, racial inequality, racial sorting, neighborhood formation
JEL Classification: H0, J7, R0, R2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation