Skip to main content

Gender and the Residential Mobility and Neighborhood Attainment of Black-White Couples


Including black-white couples in the study of residential stratification accentuates gendered power disparities within couples that favor men over women, which allows for the analysis of whether the race of male partners in black-white couples is associated with the racial and ethnic composition of their neighborhoods. I investigate this by combining longitudinal data between 1985 and 2015 from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics linked to neighborhood- and metropolitan-level data compiled from four censuses. Using these data, I assess the mobility of black male–white female and white male–black female couples out of and into neighborhoods defined respectively by their levels of whites, blacks, and ethnoracial diversity. My results show that the race of the male partner in black-white couples tends to align with the racial and ethnic composition of the neighborhoods where these couples reside. This finding highlights that the racial hierarchy within the United States affects the residential mobility and attainment of black-white couples, but its influence is conditioned by the race and gender composition of these couples.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

    The PSID defines long-term cohabiters as those coupled with a sample member with whom they have shared a residence for at least 12 months.

  2. 2.

    Members of couples whose relationships end during the study period are removed from the analysis for the remaining years. However, they may return to the sample if they form another union.

  3. 3.

    The other category consists of Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives, those who claim multiracial status, and some other race.

  4. 4.

    Models are estimated using the xt suite commands in Stata 14 (StataCorp 2015).

  5. 5.

    Random coefficients are not estimated in both the three-level random-intercepts logistic and the three-level random-intercepts linear regression models in this analysis.

  6. 6.

    With racially mixed people appearing in the U.S. Census beginning in 2000, measures of entropy could be affected. I conducted a supplemental analysis in which I excluded those who claimed a mixed-race status in the 2000 and 2010 censuses from the entropy measures and then reestimated the models presented in Tables 2 and 3. The results from this supplemental analysis are highly similar to those reported in the article and are available in Online Resource 1.

  7. 7.

    The use of census tracts as proxies for neighborhoods raises questions about the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem in the likelihood of residential out-mobility across couple categories given that moves of a given distance are more likely to be classified as intertract if the tracts are small. Supplemental analysis reveals that controlling for tract size in square miles in the models predicting the likelihood of out-mobility does not alter the substantive findings of the results presented in Table 2. See Online Resource 1 for these results.

  8. 8.

    In an analysis available in Online Resource 1, I explored whether the predicted values presented in Figs. 2 and 3 differ if the remaining covariates are held at their means or their observed values. The predicted values for the out-mobility models across couple categories with covariates held at their means are all lower than when the covariates are at their observed values. The predicted values for ethnoracial composition in destination neighborhood when family income is allowed to vary are highly similar when the covariates are held at their means or estimated using observed values.


  1. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bialik, K. (2017). Key facts about race and marriage, 50 years after Loving v. Virginia. Pew Research Center, FactTank. Retrieved from

  3. Boyle, P., Feng, Z., & Gayle, V. (2009). A new look at family migration and women’s employment status. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 417–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brown, L. A., & Moore, E. G. (1970). The intra-urban migration process: A perspective. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 52, 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bruch, E. E., & Mare, R. D. (2006). Neighborhood choice and neighborhood change. American Journal of Sociology, 112, 667–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Charles, C. Z. (2000). Neighborhood racial-composition preferences: Evidence from a multiethnic metropolis. Social Problems, 47, 379–407.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Charles, C. Z. (2003). The dynamics of racial residential segregation. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 167–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Clark, W. A. V. (2007). Race, class, and place: Evaluating mobility outcomes for African Americans. Urban Affairs Review, 42, 295–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cooke, T. J., Boyle, P., Couch, K., & Feijten, P. (2009). A longitudinal analysis of family migration and the gender gap in earnings in the United States and Great Britain. Demography, 46, 147–167.

  10. Coulter, R., Van Ham, M., & Feijten, P. (2012). Partner (dis)agreement on moving desires and the subsequent moving behaviour of couples. Population, Space and Place, 18, 16–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Crowder, K., Pais, J., & South, S. J. (2012). Neighborhood diversity, metropolitan constraints, and household migration. American Sociological Review, 77, 325–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Crowder, K., & South, S. J. (2008). White flight: Spatial dynamics of the effects of local and extralocal racial conditions on neighborhood out-migration. American Sociological Review, 73, 792–812.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dalmage, H. M. (2000). Tripping on the color line: Black-white multiracial families in a racially divided world. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Duncan, O. D., & Duncan, B. (1957). The Negro population of Chicago: A study of residential succession. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Elder, G. H., Shanahan, M. J., & Jennings, J. A. (2015). Human development in time and place. In R. M. Lerner, M. Bornstein, & T. Leventhal (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science (7th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 6–54). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

  16. Ellis, M., Holloway, S. R., Wright, R., & Fowler, C. S. (2012). Agents of change: Mixed-race households and the dynamics of neighborhood segregation in the United States. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102, 549–570.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Ellis, M., Wright, R., & Parks, V. (2006). The immigrant household and spatial assimilation: Partnership, nativity, and neighborhood location. Urban Geography, 27, 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Farley, R., Shuman, H., Bianchi, S., Colasanto, D., & Hatchett, S. (1978). Chocolate city, vanilla suburbs: Will the trend toward racially separate communities continue? Social Science Research, 7, 319–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fiemster, C. N. (2011). Southern horrors: Women and the politics of rape and lynching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Frey, W. H. (2015). Diversity explosion: How new racial demographics are remaking America. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Fryer, R. G., Jr. (2007). Guess who’s been coming to dinner? Trends in interracial marriage over the 20th century. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 71–90.

  22. Gabriel, R. (2016). A middle ground? Residential mobility and attainment of mixed-race couples. Demography, 53, 165–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. GeoLytics. (2013). Neighborhood Change Database [Database]. East Brunswick, NJ: GeoLytics, Inc. Retrieved from,Neighborhood-Change-Database-1970-2000,Products.asp

  24. Harris, D. R. (1999). “Property values drop when blacks move in, because. . .”: Racial and socioeconomic determinants of neighborhood desirability. American Sociological Review, 64, 461–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Heckman, J. J. (1979). Sample selection bias as a specification error. Econometrica, 47, 153–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Holloway, S. R., Ellis, M., Wright, R., & Hudson, M. (2005). Partnering “out” and fitting in: Residential segregation and the neighbourhood contexts of mixed-race households. Population, Space and Place, 11, 299–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Houston, S., Wright, R., Ellis, M., Holloway, S., & Hudson, M. (2005). Places of possibility: Where mixed-race partners meet. Progress in Human Geography, 29, 700–717.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Jargowsky, P. A. (1997). Poverty and place: Ghettos, barrios, and the American city. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kalmijn, M., & Flap, H. (2001). Assortative meeting and mating: Unintended consequences of organized settings for partner choices. Social Forces, 79, 1289–1312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kamp Dush, C. M, & Amato, P. R. (2005). Consequences of relationship well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 605–627.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Krysan, M., Couper, M. P., Farley, R., & Forman, T. A. (2009). Does race matter in neighborhood preferences? Results from a video experiment. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 527–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Krysan, M., & Farley, R. (2002). The residential preferences of blacks: Do they explain persistent segregation? Social Forces, 80, 937–980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Liu, H., & Umberson, D. J. (2011). The times they are a changin’: Marital status and health differentials from 1972 to 2003. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 239–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Logan, J. R., & Alba, R. D. (1993). Locational returns to human capital: Minority access to suburban community resources. Demography, 30, 243–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Logan, J. R., & Stults, B. J. (2011). The persistence of segregation in the metropolis: New findings from the 2010 census (US2010 Project report). Providence, RI: Brown University.

  36. Logan, J. R., & Zhang, C. (2010). Global neighborhoods: New pathways to diversity and separation. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 1069–1109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Logan, J. R., & Zhang, W. (2011). Global neighborhoods: New evidence from census 2010 (US2010 Project report). Providence, RI: Brown University.

  38. Long, L. (1988). Migration and residential mobility in the United States. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Massey, D. S., & Mullan, B. P. (1984). Processes of Hispanic and black spatial assimilation. American Journal of Sociology, 89, 836–873.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Massey, D. S., & Tannen, J. (2016). Segregation, race, and the social worlds of rich and poor. In I. Kirsch & H. Braun (Eds.), The dynamics of opportunity in America: Evidence and perspectives (pp. 13–33). New York, NY: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  42. Mulder, C. H. (2007). The family context and residential choice: A challenge for new research. Population, Space and Place, 13, 265–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Pais, J., South, S. J., & Crowder, K. (2012). Metropolitan heterogeneity and minority neighborhood attainment: Spatial assimilation or place stratification? Social Problems, 59, 258–281.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Quillian, L. (2002). Why is black-white residential segregation so persistent? Evidence on three theories from migration data. Social Science Research, 31, 197–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Quillian, L. (2015). A comparison of traditional and discrete-choice approaches to the analysis of residential mobility and locational attainment. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 660, 240–260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Romano, R. C. (2003). Race mixing: Black-white marriage in postwar America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Rothstein, R. (2017). The color of law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Rugh, J. S., Albright, L., & Massey, D. S. (2015). Race, space, and cumulative disadvantage: A case study of the subprime lending collapse. Social Problems, 62, 186–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Sharkey, P. (2013). Stuck in place: Urban neighborhoods and the end of progress toward racial equality. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  50. Spring, A., Ackert, E., Crowder, K., & South, S. J. (2017). Influence of proximity to kin on residential mobility and destination choice: Examining local movers in metropolitan areas. Demography, 54, 1277–1304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. StataCorp. (2015). Stata statistical software: Release 14. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.

  52. Turner, M. A., Santos, R., Levy, D. K., Wissoker, D., Aranda, C., Pitingolo, R., & Urban Institute. (2013). Housing discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities 2012 . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research.

  53. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). Table FG3: Married couple family groups, by presence of own children under 18, and age, earnings, education, and race and Hispanic origin of both spouses: 2015 [Data set]. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

  54. Wang, W. (2012). The rise of intermarriage: Rates, characteristics vary by race and gender (Social & Demographic Trends report). Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

  55. Wright, R., Ellis, M., & Holloway, S. (2011). Where black-white couples live. Urban Geography, 32, 1–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Wright, R., Holloway, S., & Ellis, M. (2013). Gender and the neighborhood location of mixed-race couples. Demography, 50, 393–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Wright, R., Houston, S., Ellis, M., Holloway, S., & Hudson, M. (2003). Crossing racial lines: Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the United States. Progress in Human Geography, 27, 457–474.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


I thank Kyle Crowder, Stewart Tolnay, Charles Hirschman, Mark Ellis, Christina Hughes, Tim Heaton, Cardell Jacobsen, the Editors of Demography, and anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ryan Gabriel.

Electronic supplementary material


(PDF 295 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gabriel, R. Gender and the Residential Mobility and Neighborhood Attainment of Black-White Couples. Demography 55, 459–484 (2018).

Download citation


  • Mixed-race couples
  • Gender
  • Residential mobility
  • Neighborhoods