The influence of race, class, and metropolitan area characteristics on African-American residential segregation

Andrew L. Spivak, Shannon M. Monnat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objectives: Sociologists and other scholars have debated the causes of continuing residential segregation for several decades. Social class has been largely discounted as a substantial determinant of residential segregation by race, but recent studies have brought renewed attention to class variables. The present study reassesses the role of social class, using household income, while also considering metropolitan area characteristics. Methods: This study expands on prior research by examining residential segregation between black-alone and white-alone households with 2000 decennial Census data for all U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with at least 200,000 or more black population or 1,000,000 total population (60 MSAs total), using both spatial unevenness (dissimilarity) and two types of experiential (i.e., contextual) indicators (exposure indices), measuring socioeconomic status (SES) with a greater range and number of income levels than in past research, and using multivariate models to account for metropolitan area characteristics. Results: We find that both dissimilarity and exposure measures are significantly associated with household income-black households with higher household incomes live in neighborhoods with greater exposure to whites and lower isolation from other blacks than do black households with lower incomes. Additionally, a number of MSA-level characteristics-several of which have not been considered in previous research-are substantially associated with black/white residential segregation. Conclusion: We interpret these findings in the context of spatial assimilation and place stratification perspectives, and conclude that racial segregation is at least partly based on class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1437
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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