, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 889-912

First online:

Temporary Integration, Resilient Inequality: Race and Neighborhood Change in the Transition to Adulthood

  • Patrick SharkeyAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, New York University Email author 

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This article focuses on neighborhood and geographic change arising with the first “selection” of an independent residential setting: the transition out of the family home. Data from two sources—the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics—are used to provide complementary analyses of trajectories of change in geographic location and neighborhood racial and economic composition during young adulthood. Findings indicate that for young adults who originate in segregated urban areas and remain in such areas, the period of young adulthood is characterized by continuity in neighborhood conditions and persistent racial inequality from childhood to adulthood. For young adults who exit highly segregated urban areas, this period is characterized by a substantial leveling of racial inequality, with African Americans moving into less-poor, less-segregated neighborhoods. However, the trend toward racial equality in young adulthood is temporary, as the gaps between whites and blacks grow as the young adults move further into adulthood. Crucial to the reemergence of racial inequality in neighborhood environments is the process of “unselected” change, or change in neighborhood conditions that occurs around young adults after they move to a new neighborhood environment.


Neighborhoods Race Young adulthood Life course Segregation