Academic journal article Cityscape

Pathways to Integration: Examining Changes in the Prevalence of Racially Integrated Neighborhoods

Academic journal article Cityscape

Pathways to Integration: Examining Changes in the Prevalence of Racially Integrated Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

Abstract

Few researchers have studied integrated neighborhoods, yet these neighborhoods offer an important window into broader patterns of segregation. In this article, we explore changes in racial integration in recent decades using decennial census tract data from 1990, 2000, and 2010. We begin by examining changes in the prevalence of racially integrated neighborhoods and find that the share of metropolitan neighborhoods that are integrated increased significantly during this period, from slightly less than 20 percent to slightly more than 30 percent. We then shed light on the pathways through which these changes have occurred. We find both a small increase in the number of neighborhoods becoming integrated for the first time during this period and a more sizable increase in the share of integrated neighborhoods that remained integrated. Finally, we offer insights about which neighborhoods become integrated in the first place and which remain stably integrated over time.

Introduction

Although many scholars track patterns of racial segregation in metropolitan areas, very few have focused attention on racially integrated communities. This lack of attention might be a consequence of the popular view in the United States that racial integration is extremely rare and, when it occurs, it is only temporary. In the years after World War II, many urban neighborhoods quickly changed from all White to all Black. Schelling (1972) coined the term tipping to describe this rapid change and helped explain it using a simple model of racial preferences. His model assumes that White residents will continue to live in a community only as long as the Black population remains below their individual tolerance thresholds. As the most prejudiced White residents leave, the proportion of Black residents will rise above the tolerance threshold of the next most prejudiced White group, until the neighborhood population becomes all Black.

Equipped with Schelling's simple model and the empirical reality of rapid racial transition in the postwar era, most researchers have, until recently, viewed integration as a rare exception to the norm of racial homogeneity. Even the researchers who have studied integrated neighborhoods have tended to focus their case studies on communities that self-consciously work to maintain their diversity (Keating, 1994; Nyden, Maly, and Lukehart, 1997; Saltman, 1990). The implied message of these studies is that without such robust, ongoing efforts to maintain integration, stably diverse communities would not exist.

Although our metropolitan areas remain highly segregated by race, racially integrated neighborhoods grew considerably more common between 1980 and 2000 (Easterly, 2009; Ellen, 2007, 2000; Farrell and Lee, 201 1; Fasenfest, Booza, and Metzger, 2004; Friedman, 2008; Logan and Zhang, 2010; Rawlings, Harris, and Turner, 2004). Moreover, previous research suggests many of these recently integrated neighborhoods were not just temporarily mixed in the process of moving from all White to all minority, but they remained integrated for years (Ellen, 2007, 2000, 1998; Logan and Zhang, 2010; Rawlings, Harris, and Turner, 2004). This literature does not extend past 2000, however. We do not know what has happened to the prevalence or stability of integrated neighborhoods more recently.

Our goal in this article is to fill this gap using decennial census data from 1990, 2000, and 2010. We start by examining recent changes in the number and share of neighborhoods that are racially integrated. We then offer some evidence about the pathways through which these changes have occurred. Finally, we examine the characteristics of the racially homogenous neighborhoods that become integrated in the first place and those of the integrated neighborhoods that remain stably integrated over time.

Background and Literature Review

Although researchers have focused more on racial segregation, a number of papers offer insights into our questions. …

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