Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 95–127 | Cite as

Residential segregation in American cities: a review and interpretation

  • W. A. V. Clark


Significant levels of separation between blacks and whites still exist in large American cities, and debate about the causes of that residential separation has been considerable. A balanced analysis of the factors that might explain residential segregation - economic status (affordability), social preferences, urban structure, and discrimination - suggests that no one factor can account for the patterns that have arisen in U.S. metropolitan areas. Empirical estimation of the impact of economic status suggests that 30–70 percent of racial separation is attributable to economic factors. However, economic factors do not act alone, but in association explanatory weight for present residential patterns. Survey evidence from both national and local studies shows that black households prefer neighborhoods that are half black and half white, while whites prefer neighborhoods ranging from 0 to 30 percent black.

The debate about causes seems most polarized over the role of discrimination. Although comments in the literature often focus on the past use of racially restrictive covenants by state-regulated agencies and discriminatory acts by realtors and financial institutions, the documented individual cases of discrimination do not appear to be part of a massive collusion to deny housing opportunities to minorities. A review of the evidence from social science investigations demonstrates that there are multiple causes of racial residential separation in U.S. metropolitan areas.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armor, D.J. (1984). ‘Analysis of desegregation remedies for Pulaski County school districts’, Defendants' Exhibit 43.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, R. and Phipps, A. (1977). ‘Housing allowance demand experiment, locational choice II: neighborhood change’, Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Assoc.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G.S. (1957). The Economics of Discrimination, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berry, B.J.L. (1979). The Open Housing Question: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1966–76. Cambridge Mass.: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  5. Birnbaum, H. and Wetson, R. (1974). ‘Homeownership and the wealth position of black and white Americans’, Reviews of Income and Wealth 20: 103–119.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, W.A.V. (1980). ‘Residential mobility and neighborhood change: some implications for racial residential segregation’, Urban Geography 1: 95–117.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, W.A.V. and Onaka, J. (1983). ‘A review and interpretation of reasons for moving’, Urban Studies 20: 47–58.Google Scholar
  8. Clay, P.L. (1979). ‘The process of black suburbanization’, Urban Affairs Quarterly 14: 405–424.Google Scholar
  9. Coleman, J.S., Kelly F.D. and Moore, J.A. (1975). Trends in School Segregation, 1968–73. Washington, D.C., The Urban Institute Paper UI722-03-91.Google Scholar
  10. Courant, P. and Yinger, J. (1977). ‘On models of racial prejudice and urban residential structure’, Journal of Urban Economics 4: 272–291.Google Scholar
  11. Cronin, F.J. (1982). ‘Racial differences in the search for housing’. In W.A.V. Clark (ed.), Modelling Housing Market Search, London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  12. Duncan, O.D. and B. Duncan (1955). ‘A methodological analysis of segregation indexes’, American Sociological Review 20: 210–217.Google Scholar
  13. Farley, R. (1977). ‘Residential segregation in urbanized areas of the United States in 1970: an analysis of social class and racial differences’, Demography 14: 497–518.Google Scholar
  14. Farley, R. (1984). Blacks and Whites: Narrowing the Gap? Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Farley, R. et al. (1978). ‘Chocolate city, vanilla suburbs. Will the trend toward racially separate communities continue?’ Social Science Research 7: 319–344.Google Scholar
  16. Fischer, C.S. et al. (1977). Networks and Places: Social Relations in the Urban Setting. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  17. Frey, W.H. (1978). ‘Black movement to the suburbs: potentials and prospects for metropolitan-wide integration’, in F.D. Bean and W.P. Frisbie, The Demography of Racial and Ethnic Groups, Press, New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Frey, W.H. (1979). ‘Central city white flight: racial and nonracial causes’, American Sociological Review 44: 425–448.Google Scholar
  19. Frey, W.H. (1983). ‘Life course migration of metropolitan whites and blacks and the structure of demographic change in large central cities’, Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan, Population Studies Center, Research Report Number 83–47.Google Scholar
  20. Frey, W.H. (1985). ‘Mover destination selectivity and the changing suburbanization of metropolitan whites and blacks’, Demography 22: 223–243.Google Scholar
  21. Goodman, J.L. (1978). Urban Residential Mobility: Places, People, and Policy, Washington, D.C., The Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  22. Goodman, J.L. and Streitweiser, M.L. (1982). Explaining racial differences in city to suburb residential mobility, Washington, D.C., The Urban Institute, Working Paper 1384–09.Google Scholar
  23. Grebler, L. and F.G. Mittelbach (1979). The Inflation of House Prices. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company.Google Scholar
  24. Hermalin, A. and Farley, R. (1973). ‘The potential for residential intervention in cities and suburbs: implications for the busing controversy’, American Sociological Review 38: 595–610.Google Scholar
  25. Holshouser, W. (1976). Supportive Services in a Housing Allowance Program, Volume 1. Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Associates.Google Scholar
  26. Huff, J.O. (1982). ‘Spatial aspects of residential search’, in W.A.V. Clark, (ed.), Modelling Housing Market Search, London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  27. Jakubs, J. (1981). ‘A distance based segregation index’. Journal of Socioeconomic Planning Sciences 15: 129–141.Google Scholar
  28. Jenkins v. State of Missouri (1984). No. 77-420-CV-W Transcript of Proceedings.Google Scholar
  29. Kain, J. and Quigley, J. (1975). Housing Markets and Racial Discrimination: a Micro Economic Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lake, R.W. (1981). The New Suburbanites: Race and Housing in the Suburbs. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research.Google Scholar
  31. Leven, C., et al (1976). Neighborhood Change: Lessons in the Dynamics of Urban Decay. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  32. Liddell and the United States v. School Board of the City of St. Louis (E.D. Mo) Civil Action No. 72-100-C (4).Google Scholar
  33. Lieberson, S. and Carter, D.K. (1982). ‘Temporal changes and urban differences in residential segregation: a reconsideration’, American Journal of Sociology A8: 296–310.Google Scholar
  34. Listokin, D. and Casey, S. (1980). Mortgage Lending and Race. New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy and Research.Google Scholar
  35. Milliken v Bradley (1974). United States Reports 418: 717–815.Google Scholar
  36. Morrison, P. (1978). Overview of demographic trends shaping the nation's future. Rand Paper Series, P-6128, Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  37. Muth, R. (1969). Studies in Housing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Nelson, K. (1979). ‘Recent Suburbanization of Blacks: How Much, Who and Where?’ U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development Research, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  39. Orfield, G. (1981a). ‘Toward a strategy for urban integration: lessons in school and housing policy from twelve cities’, A report to the Ford Foundation.Google Scholar
  40. Orfield, G. (1981b). The housing issues in the St. Louis case, a report to Judge William L. Hungate, U.S. District Court, St. Louis, Missouri.Google Scholar
  41. Pascal, A. (1967). The Economics of Housing Segregation. Santa Monica, CA: RM-5510-RC, The Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  42. Pascal, A. (1978). Armour v. Nix, U.S. District Court, Northern district of Georgia, Atlanta Division, Civil Action 16708, Transcript of Proceedings, Defendants' Exhibit #18.Google Scholar
  43. Pettigrew, T. (1973). Attitudes on race and housing, In: A. Hawley and V. Rock, (ed.) Segregation of Residential Areas, Washington D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  44. Roistacher, E.A. and Goodman, J.L. (1976). ‘Race and homeownership: is discrimination disappearing?’ Economic Inquiry 14: 59–70.Google Scholar
  45. Rose, H. (1976). Black Suburbanization. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  46. Rossi, P. (1955). Why Families Move. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  47. Schelling, T. (1971). ‘The ecology of micromotives’, The Public Interest 2: 61–69.Google Scholar
  48. Schelling, T. (1978). Micromotives and Macrobehavior, New York: W. W. Norton and Company.Google Scholar
  49. Schnare, A.B. (1977). ‘Residential Segregation by Race in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: An Analysis Across Cities and Over Time’. Washington D.C.: The Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  50. Schnare, A.B. (1978). The Persistence of Racial Segregation and Housing. Washington D.C.: The Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  51. Smith, B. (1982). ‘Racial composition as a neighborhood amenity’, in D. Diamond and G. Tolley (eds.), The Economics of Urban Amenities. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, J.P. and F. Welch (1986). Closing the Gap: Forty Years of Economic Progress for Blacks. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  53. Spain, D. (1979). ‘Reasons for intrametropolitan mobility: are schools a key issue?’ Annual Meeting Population Association of America, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  54. Spain, D. and Long, L.H. (1981). ‘Black Movers to the Suburbs: Are They Moving to Predominantly White Neighborhoods?’ Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Special Demographic Analysis, CDS-80–4.Google Scholar
  55. Speare, A., S. Goldstein, and W. Frey (1975). Residential Mobility, Migration, and Metropolitan Change. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  56. Streitweiser, M.L. and Goodman, J.L. (1983). ‘A survey of recent research on race and residential location’, Population Research and Policy Review 2: 253–283.Google Scholar
  57. Taeuber, K.E. (1975). ‘Demographic perspectives on housing and school segregation’, Wayne Law Review 21: 833–850.Google Scholar
  58. Taeuber, K.E., Monfort, F.W. and Massey, P.A. (1984). ‘The trend in metropolitan racial residential segregation’, Paper read to the Population Association of America.Google Scholar
  59. U.S. Bureau of the Census (1975). Historical Statistics of the U.S., Colonial Times to 1970. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  60. U.S. Bureau of the Census (1982). Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1982–83, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  61. U.S. Bureau of the Census(1980). Census of Population and Housing, Census Tracts.Google Scholar
  62. U.S. Bureau of the Census (1982). Annual Housing Surveys: Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Kansas City. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  63. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1978). Consumer Expenditure Survey Series 1972/73, Bulletin 1985, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  64. Van Valey, T.L., Roof, W.C. and Wilcox, J.E. (1977). ‘Trends in residential segregation 1960s and 1970s’, American Journal of Sociology 82: 826–844.Google Scholar
  65. Wienk, R.E., et al. (1979). ‘Measuring racial discrimination in American housing markets: the housing market practices survey’, Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Division Evaluation, Office of Policy Development and Research.Google Scholar
  66. Wilson, W.J. (1978). ‘The declining significance of race’. Society 15 (5): 11–21.Google Scholar
  67. Winship, C. (1978). ‘The desirability of using the index of dissimilarity or any adjustment of it for measuring segregation: reply to Falk, Cortese, and Cohen’, Social Forces 57: 717–720.Google Scholar
  68. Yinger, J. (1976). ‘Racial prejudice and racial residential segregation in an urban model’, Journal of Urban Economics 3: 383–406.Google Scholar
  69. Yinger, J. (1978). ‘The black-white price differential in housing: some further evidence’, Land Economics 54: 185–206.Google Scholar
  70. Zelder, R.E. (1977). ‘On the measurement of residential segregation: reply’, Journal of Regional Science 17: 299–303.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. A. V. Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations