Academic journal article Urban Studies Research

Neighborhood Racial Composition, Institutional Socialization, and Intraracial Feelings of Closeness among Black Americans

Academic journal article Urban Studies Research

Neighborhood Racial Composition, Institutional Socialization, and Intraracial Feelings of Closeness among Black Americans

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Dating back to The Chicago School [1], there has been a plethora of research on the effects of neighborhood on various social outcomes in urban cities such as physical health [2], education [3], exposure to crime/violence [4], and family formation [5]. Moreover, research suggests that neighborhoods influence certain psychological dimensions such as the extent to which members of a racial/ethnic group feel close to its respective membership base [6] and feelings of alienation [7]. The effects seem to transcend time [8] and affect persons throughout the entire life course [9, 10]. Most of these effects are thought to be disadvantageous for racial and ethnic minorities, particularly black Americans [11].

To clarify, race is a social grouping of individuals who are treated as distinct based on certain physical characteristics (such as skin color) that have been assigned as socially important. In the US context, white and black are the two consistent racial groupings. Similarly, ethnicity is a social group within a larger cultural context and social system that share what they believe to be common origins and experiences, and they feel an affinity for one another that leads to congregation [12]. In the US context, groupings within Latinos or Asians are two popular examples of ethnicity. Race and ethnicity can be combined, such as having Hispanic blacks, which creates a diversity within races and ethnicities.

Where racial and ethnic groups live in the US is not randomly patterned. Due to various social policies and structural conditions designed to maintain racial homogamy across place, neighborhoods, particularly in metropolitan areas, are often racially segregated. However, while there are some findings that suggest that racial residential segregation is declining for blacks [13], there is an increase in economic segregation of blacks relative to whites. That is, blacks are less likely to live in racially segregated areas but more likely to live in areas that are of high poverty. Moreover, these areas also tend to have a high proportion of blacks. Quillian (2012) calls this "three segregations," which indicates the complexities in the spatial patterning of black Americans.

Residential segregation between blacks and whites has declined over time, but it remains high [14]. In 2010, the "typical" black American lives in a neighborhood that is 45.2% black and, in general, whites live in neighborhoods with low minority representation while blacks live in neighborhoods with high minority representation [15]. There is a similar story regarding poverty among black Americans. Among individuals who live in census tracts where the poverty rate was less than 20% (i.e., low-poverty neighborhoods), blacks represent 8% compared to 69% for whites [16]. However, among individuals who live in census tracts where the poverty rate was greater than 20% (i.e., high-poverty neighborhood), blacks represent 20% compared to 37% for whites. Thus, there is less representation of blacks in low-poverty areas compared to high-poverty areas.

In light of these statistics, the literature has not provided a thorough understanding of how neighborhood racial composition affects how close one feels towards individuals within one's race (but not one's ethnicity). This paucity is important, as cities are the places where difference is created and solidified more so than places outside of the metropolitan landscape [17]. Moreover, there has been a demographic shift in the US population, as the minority of population has increased over the course of a decade. Recent 2010 Census estimates suggest that 13.6% of the population identifies as black/African American, which is a 15% increase since 2000 [18]. The number of individuals who identify as black with another nationality other than American has also increased, from nearly 1.7 million in 2000 to over 3 million in 2010, marking an increase in excess of 75% [18]. …

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