Residential Segregation

  • Robert Mare
  • Daniel Lichter

Leader: Daniel Lichter, Robert Mare

The Residential Segregation RG is dedicated to updating the country’s system for measuring residential segregation. This research group has three main research commitments: (a) monitoring segregation at the extremes; (b) charting the spatial distribution of the elderly poor; and (c) developing a new GPS-based infrastructure for measuring segregation. 

Segregation at the extremes: The first line of research addresses the need to better monitor segregation at the extremes, including (a) the possible rise of enclave-style segregation at the very top (the “one percent”) and (b) the yet more troubling possibility of a resurgence of extreme segregation among the very poor. In a related recession brief, Robert Sampson has shown that poor neighborhoods have become yet poorer in the downturn, raising the possibility that hyper-segregation is indeed emerging. 

Segregation of the elderly poor: In the second line of research, research group members are charting the spatial distribution of the elderly poor, given emerging concerns about their ghettoization. This line of research, which is being carried out in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity, begins with a simple descriptive mapping of elderly poor that reveals the extent to which they are indeed isolated and segregated. 

Real-time measures of segregation: The third main initiative is to develop a new infrastructure for monitoring segregation. The conventional approach of carrying out separate and static measurements of residential, school, work, friendship, and marriage segregation can be replaced with a direct behavioral framework that tracks the continuous-time patterning of inter-person contact. By exploiting GPS measurements (increasingly available, even for the poor, via mobile phones), it becomes possible to track poor, middle-class, and rich people as they move through their day and attend school, go to work, carry out their shopping, and visit friends and family. This methodology will produce a real-time measure of how much segregation there is and, in particular, the extent to which the poor are growing increasingly isolated in school, home, work, and leisure. 

Segregation - CPI Research

Title Author Media
State of the Union 2019: Occupational Segregation Kim A. Weeden

State of the Union 2019: Occupational Segregation

Author: Kim A. Weeden
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 06/2019
  • The gender segregation of occupations is less pronounced among millennials than among any other generation in recent U.S. history. 
  • By contrast, millennials are experiencing just as much racial and ethnic occupational segregation as prior generations, even though millennials are less tolerant of overt expressions of racism. 
  • Both types of occupational segregation—gender and racial-ethnic—are very consequential for wages. Among millennials, occupational segregation accounts for 28 percent of the gender wage gap and 39 to 49 percent of racial wage gaps.
Emerging Patterns of Hispanic Residential Segregation: Lessons from Rural and Small-Town America Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, Michael C. Taquino

Emerging Patterns of Hispanic Residential Segregation: Lessons from Rural and Small-Town America

Author: Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, Michael C. Taquino
Publisher: Rural Sociology
Date: 05/2016

The past two decades have ushered in a period of widespread spatial diffusion of Hispanics well beyond traditional metropolitan gateways. This article examines emerging patterns of racial and ethnic residential segregation in new Hispanic destinations over the 1990–2010 period, linking county, place, and block data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses. Our multiscalar analyses of segregation are framed by classical models of immigrant assimilation and alternative models of place stratification. We ask whether Hispanics are integrating spatially with the native population and whether recent demographic and economic processes have eroded or perpetuated racial boundaries in nonmetropolitan areas. We show that Hispanic residential segregation from whites is often exceptionally high and declining slowly in rural counties and communities. New Hispanic destinations, on average, have higher Hispanic segregation levels than established gateway communities. The results also highlight microscale segregation patterns within rural places and in the open countryside (i.e., outside places), a result that is consistent with emerging patterns of “white flight.” Observed estimates of Hispanic-white segregation across fast-growing nonmetropolitan counties often hide substantial heterogeneity in residential segregation. Divergent patterns of rural segregation reflect local-area differences in population dynamics, economic inequality, and the county employment base (using Economic Research Service functional specialization codes). Illustrative maps of Hispanic boom counties highlight spatially uneven patterns of racial diversity. They also provide an empirical basis for our multivariate analyses, which show that divergent patterns of local-area segregation often reflect spatial variation in employment across different industrial sectors.

Residential Segregation is the Linchpin of Racial Stratification Douglas S. Massey

Residential Segregation is the Linchpin of Racial Stratification

Author: Douglas S. Massey
Publisher: City and Community
Date: 03/2016

"White racial attitudes toward black Americans shifted during the Civil Rights Era ... with important consequences for patterns of racial segregation. During the 1980s, principled support for segregation all but disappeared; but despite this retreat from segregationist ideology, whites nonetheless continued to harbor strong anti-black sentiments rooted in negative stereotypes about the low intelligence, lack of motivation, propensity toward criminality, and predatory sexuality of African Americans (Bobo et al. 2012). Even though whites had come to reject segregation in principle, they continued to feel uncomfortable in the presence of many African Americans in practice; and they grew progressively more uncomfortable as black numbers in the social setting rose (Charles 2003)."

The Continuing Increase in Income Segregation, 2007-2012 Sean Reardon, Kendra Bischoff

The Continuing Increase in Income Segregation, 2007-2012

Author: Sean Reardon, Kendra Bischoff
Date: 03/2016

In this report, we use the most recent data from the American Community Survey to investigate whether income segregation increased from 2007 to 2012. These data indicate that income segregation rose modestly from 2007 to 2012. This continues the trend of rising income segregation that began in the 1980s. We show that the growth in income segregation varies among metropolitan areas, and that segregation increased rapidly in places that experienced large increases in income inequality. This suggests that rising income inequality continues to be a key factor leading to increasing residential segregation by income.

Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Frina Lin, Jeremy Majerovitz, Benjamin Scuderi

Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood

Author: Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Frina Lin, Jeremy Majerovitz, Benjamin Scuderi
Publisher: NBER
Date: 02/2016

We show that differences in childhood environments play an important role in shaping gender gaps in adulthood by documenting three facts using population tax records for children born in the 1980s. First, gender gaps in employment rates, earnings, and college attendance vary substantially across the parental income distribution. Notably, the traditional gender gap in employment rates is reversed for children growing up in poor families: boys in families in the bottom quintile of the income distributionare less likely to work than girls. Second, these gender gaps vary substantially across counties and commuting zones in which children grow up. The degree of variation in outcomes across places is largest for boys growing up in poor, single-parent families. Third, the spatial variation in gender gaps is highly correlated with proxies for neighborhood disadvantage. Low-income boys who grow up in high-poverty, high-minority areas work significantly less than girls. These areas also have higher rates of crime, suggesting that boys growing up in concentrated poverty substitute from formal employment to crime. Together, these findings demonstrate that gender gaps in adulthood have roots in childhood, perhaps because childhood disadvantage is especially harmful for boys.

segregation - CPI Affiliates

Robert Denis Mare's picture Robert Denis Mare Segregation Research Group Leader, Research Professor and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles
Daniel Lichter's picture Daniel Lichter Segregation Research Group Leader; Professor of Sociology; Director of Cornell Population Center; Ferris Family Professor of Policy Analysis and Management; Robert S. Harrison Director of the Institute for Social Sciences
Cornell University
Ann Owens's picture Ann Owens Assistant Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences
University of Southern California
Domenico Parisi's picture Domenico Parisi Executive Director, National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center; Executive Director of the State Longitudinal Data System State Data Clearinghouse; Professor of Sociology
Mississippi State University
Joscha Legewie's picture Joscha Legewie Assistant Professor of Sociology
Yale University


Segregation - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Segregation of Opportunity: Social and Financial Resources in the Educational Contexts of Lower- and Higher-Income Children, 1990–2014 Ann Owens, Kendra Bischoff

The Segregation of Opportunity: Social and Financial Resources in the Educational Contexts of Lower- and Higher-Income Children, 1990–2014

Author: Ann Owens, Kendra Bischoff
Publisher: Demography
Date: 09/2019

This article provides a rich longitudinal portrait of the financial and social resources available in the school districts of high- and low-income students in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Combining multiple publicly available data sources for most school districts in the United States, we document levels and gaps in school district financial resources—total per-pupil expenditures—and social resources—local rates of adult educational attainment, family structure, and adult unemployment—available to the average public school student at a variety of income levels over time. In addition to using eligibility for the National School Lunch Program as a blunt measure of student income, we estimate resource inequalities between income deciles to analyze resource gaps between affluent and poor children. We then examine the relationship between income segregation and resource gaps between the school districts of high- and low-income children. In previous work, the social context of schooling has been a theoretical but unmeasured mechanism through which income segregation may operate to create unequal opportunities for children. Our results show large and, in some cases, growing social resource gaps in the districts of high- and low-income students nationally and provide evidence that these gaps are exacerbated by income segregation. Conversely, per-pupil funding became more compensatory between high- and low-income students’ school districts over this period, especially in highly segregated states. However, there are early signs of reversal in this trend. The results provide evidence that school finance reforms have been somewhat effective in reducing the consequences of income segregation on funding inequities, while inequalities in the social context of schooling continue to grow.

Building Inequality: Housing Segregation and Income Segregation Ann Owens

Building Inequality: Housing Segregation and Income Segregation

Author: Ann Owens
Publisher: Sociological Science
Date: 08/2019

This article foregrounds housing in the study of residential segregation. The spatial configuration of housing determines the housing opportunities in each neighborhood, the backdrop against which households’ resources, preferences, and constraints play out. I use census and American Community Survey data to provide the first evidence of the extent of housing segregation by type and by cost at multiple geographic scales in large metropolitan areas in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Segregation between single- and multifamily homes and renter- and owner-occupied homes increased in most metropolitan areas, whereas segregation by cost declined. Housing segregation varies among metropolitan areas, across geographic scales, and over time, with consequences for income segregation. Income segregation is markedly higher when and where housing segregation is greater. As long as housing opportunities remain segregated, residential segregation will change little, with urgent implications for urban and housing policy makers.

The Uptick in Income Segregation: Real Trend or Random Sampling Variation? John R. Logan, Andrew Foster, Jun Ke, Fan Li

The Uptick in Income Segregation: Real Trend or Random Sampling Variation?

Author: John R. Logan, Andrew Foster, Jun Ke, Fan Li
Publisher: American Journal of Sociology
Date: 07/2018

Recent trends in income segregation in metropolitan regions show that, after a decline in the 1990s, there was an increase in 2000–2010 that reinforced concerns about the overall growth in U.S. income inequality since the 1970s. Yet the evidence may be systematically biased to exacerbate the upward trend because the effective sample for the American Community Survey (ACS) is much smaller than it was for the 2000 census to which it is being compared. Apparent changes in disparities across census tracts may result partly from a higher level of sampling variation and bias due to the smaller sample. This study uses 100% microdata from the 1940 census to simulate the impact of different sampling rates and applies those approaches to publicly available data for 2000 and 2007–11. The reduction in sample sizes associated with the ACS appears to exaggerate the evidence for increasing income segregation for all measures tested here.

Is It Who You Are or Where You Live? Residential Segregation and Racial Gaps in Childhood Asthma Diane Alexander, Janet Currie

Is It Who You Are or Where You Live? Residential Segregation and Racial Gaps in Childhood Asthma

Author: Diane Alexander, Janet Currie
Publisher: NBER
Date: 07/2017

Higher asthma rates are one of the more obvious ways that health inequalities between African American and other children are manifested beginning in early childhood. In 2010, black asthma rates were double non-black rates. Some but not all of this difference can be explained by factors such as a higher incidence of low birth weight (LBW) among blacks; however, even conditional on LBW, blacks have a higher incidence of asthma than others. Using a unique data set based on the health records of all children born in New Jersey between 2006 and 2010, we show that when we split the data by whether or not children live in a “black” zip code, this racial difference in the incidence of asthma among LBW children entirely disappears. All LBW children in these zip codes, regardless of race, have a higher incidence of asthma. Our results point to the importance of residential segregation and neighborhoods in explaining persistent racial health disparities.


Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children Ann Owens

Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children

Author: Ann Owens
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 06/2016

Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.