Collective Action and Racial Segregation

by Henry on June 6, 2008

A few years back, Kieran “wrote about”:https://crookedtimber.org/2004/02/04/walking-to-school/ how Schelling type tipping point arguments have often been used to ‘explain’ patterns of racial segregation.

bq. lovely as these models are, we know empirically that many phenomena that can be formulated as tipping processes do not, in fact, happen in that way. Neighborhood racial segregation, for instance, has historically been actively enforced and collectively sustained, and is not simply the unpleasant byproduct of innocuous choices. Similarly, social movements that successfully propagate ideas or initiate collective action tend not to rely on contagion but are usually very well organized.

I was reminded of this when I read Rick Perlstein’s “post”:http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/meaning-box-722 on how neighborhood segregation was enforced in post-war Chicago.

bq. You could draw a map of the boundary within which the city’s seven hundred thousand Negroes were allowed to live by marking an X wherever a white mob attacked a Negro. Move beyond it, and a family had to face down a mob of one thousand, five thousand, or even (in the Englewood riot of 1949, when the presence of blacks at a union meeting sparked a rumor the house was to be “sold to niggers”) ten thousand bloody-minded whites. In the late 1940s, when the postwar housing shortage was at its peak, you could find ten black families living in a basement, sharing a single stove but not a single flush toilet, in “apartments” subdivided by cardboard. One racial bombing or arson happened every three weeks…. In neighborhoods where they were allowed to “buy” houses, they couldn’t actually buy them at all: banks would not write them mortgages, so unscrupulous businessmen sold them contracts that gave them no equity or title to the property, from which they could be evicted the first time they were late with a payment.

Rick argues in _Nixonland_ that anxieties about open housing were one of the main reasons that so many white ethnics turned Republican. The post uses letters from constituents to Senator Paul Douglas to back up this claim. Go read.

{ 63 comments }

1

Tim Worstall 06.06.08 at 1:13 pm

“Schelling type tipping point arguments have often been used to ‘explain’ patterns of racial segregation.”

Wasn’t Schelling’s original point (however much others might abuse it) that seeing racial segregation in housing isn’t proof that it is socially (and or violently) enforced? It might be, it could be, it most certainly was in (many?) times and places, but that the simple observation that there is segregation doesn’t mean that it is in this instance.

Or have I (not unusually) missed his point?

2

Kieran Healy 06.06.08 at 1:22 pm

Schelling was pretty judicious about the nature and scope of the models he developed — often they were explicitly baseline exercises where the goal was to find the simplest mechanism that could in principle generate the observed outcome.

3

Clay Shirky 06.06.08 at 1:40 pm

Further to the defense of Shelling, he was clear about only demonstrating that the existence of a segregated pattern could be generated by homophily as well as by antipathy.

There are, I think, two permissible hypotheses in social science from this: a) discovery of segregation in the real world does not automatically reveal its causes and, b) legislation to reduce the effects of antipathy may not in fact lead to dramatic desegregation.

All of the misuses of Shelling (segregation is _necessarily_ a result of homophily; state action will _always_ be ineffective) are of the normal sort, where a model is backed into reality not because it fits the data but rather because it fits the biases of the opinion-holder.

4

Western Dave 06.06.08 at 1:43 pm

“It might be, it could be, it most certainly was in (many?) times and places.”

Tim,
My own research, along with that of just about every 20th century US scholar who has looked at this says that violence or the threat of it enforced racial segregation. I am not familiar with a counter-example where violence or its threat was not the reason behind the segregation of minorities by majorities. Even red-lining practices were basically because of the fear of violence errupting. Tipping points explain why whites who might support integration leave, but not why minorities lack freedom of choice in where to live. So until somebody comes up with a counter-example, your “many?” should read “all.”

5

dsquared 06.06.08 at 1:56 pm

My guess is that people feel pulled in the direction of a sort of “Occam’s Razor of malignity” – the idea being that rather than the simplest explanation being more likely to be correct, that there’s a reason to prefer the explanation which postulates the smallest amount of nastiness. Which I don’t think is valid reasoning; one of the things we know about meanness is that there’s lots of it to go round.

6

Slocum 06.06.08 at 2:05 pm

My own research, along with that of just about every 20th century US scholar who has looked at this says that violence or the threat of it enforced racial segregation. I am not familiar with a counter-example where violence or its threat was not the reason behind the segregation of minorities by majorities.

I’m sure that was true. And yet there are many, many current examples of concentration of minorities that have nothing whatsoever to do with the threat of violence. It is very common to see patterns of housing with areas where minorities are found in concentrations well above their share of the overall population and also (necessarily) areas where they are very scarce or absent. This pattern can be seen here (Ann Arbor) for a variety of racial/ethnic/religious groups:

– African Americans
– Jews
– East Asians
– Muslims

Come to that, there are also student areas, ‘aging hippie’ areas, rich liberal areas, rich Republican areas, and so on. I don’t think there’s any evidence that these patterns are ‘enforced’ by anything other than economics and preferences.

Nor do I think that random uniformity (and the resulting loss of neighborhood character) would constitute an improvement.

7

Ken C. 06.06.08 at 2:37 pm

Probably well-known around here, but James Loewen’s Sundown Towns work (and book) is very relevant: while I don’t doubt that “homophilic” segregation is possible, and happens, a huge area of the U.S. was subject to segregation that was very much “antipathic”. Arson, riots, “spectacle lynchings”, and violent threats forced black people out of small towns throughout the midwest and west, and “No n* in town after sundown” laws kept them out. Similar violence drove people of Chinese descent out of Idaho, and out of small towns in California.

8

Rich B. 06.06.08 at 3:02 pm

I don’t know about Chicago, but in Philadelphia/ Camden the story is almost always “See all those beautiful Victorian houses? That used to be an all White neighborhood, but then the Blacks started moving in, and the mansions were chopped up into apartments or left in disrepair.”

Essentially, the black people all live where the white people lived 50 years ago, but moved aways because the black people moved in.

That is certainly segregation caused by racist motives rather than “homophilly,” but it is certainly not about enforcing borders with violence. The borders are, in fact, constantly shifting (and then shifting back through “gentrification”).

9

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 3:04 pm

And yet there are many, many current examples of concentration of minorities that have nothing whatsoever to do with the threat of violence.

Ture. An important thing to recognize here is the qualitiative difference between the segregation of African-Americans and of other minorities.

I spent some time, back in the 1990s, working with Chicago census data, and one striking thing I found was that there were large swathes of the city where census tract after tract did not have a single African-American resident. Not one — and this in a city that was 40 percent black. Latinos, on the other hand, were spread much more evenly — yes, there were neighborhoods where they were a larger proportion of the population and neighborhoods where there were few, but no substantial areas where there were none at all.

10

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 3:07 pm

Roch B.

You’re not describing an alternative to enforcement through violence, but one moment of it. It’s exactly the fact that the presence of black neighbors will lead large numbers of white people to leave an area, with a corresponding decline of property values, that drives many people concerned about the value of their home to violently resists integration.

11

roac 06.06.08 at 3:07 pm

One mechanism that drives residential segregation is the “white premium.” White people for whom it is important to live where there are few or no black people will bid up the price for homes in such an area. The area is of course likely to acquire a reputation for hostility to black people, which will discourage most black homeseekers. But even if the fear of violence/harassment wasn’t there, the black homeseeker can buy an equivalent home in a black or integrated area for far less; why would she pay the white premium?

(I understand this phenomenon is well recognized in the academic literature, but I haven’t read any of it. As a lawyer working in the field, I figured it out for myself.)

12

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 3:25 pm

So according to Roac, the *real* victims of segregation are racists, who end up overpaying for their houses. While the lucky ducky blacks are the winners, sice they get separate but equal — er, “equivalent” — homes in their own neighborhoods.

13

Rich B. 06.06.08 at 3:31 pm

It’s exactly the fact that the presence of black neighbors will lead large numbers of white people to leave an area, with a corresponding decline of property values, that drives many people concerned about the value of their home to violently resists integration.

But what I am saying is that the segregation in Philadelphia is not caused by the inability of black people to move wherever the heck they want, but rather by the failure of white people to stay there.

Greater Philadelphia is likely just (or almost) as segregated as it was 50 years ago, but the maps of the segregated black neighborhoods in the two time periods wouldn’t look anything alike.

That is not a story of violently enforced segregation — it is a story of tipping points and white flight from certain neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs.

14

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15

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 3:40 pm

Rich, is your arguemnt that ebcause the lines between black and white areas have changed over time, it follows that black families have been free to move wherever they want?

16

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 3:50 pm

… or, more pointedly, if violent resistance to integration eventually is unsuccessful, does that mean it didn’t exist at all?

17

roac 06.06.08 at 4:03 pm

So according to Roac, the real victims of segregation are racists

The pernicious effects of racism are so manifold that yes, racists are “victims” too. What would you expect? Financially, however, since the escalation of value driven by racism is self-perpetuating and stable, most people who have paid the premium, so far, have probably recouped their investments in the long term. Whereas the lower appreciation of homes in black areas likely contributes to the striking racial wealth-gap.

18

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 4:33 pm

the lower appreciation of homes in black areas

What’s *that* about?

19

roac 06.06.08 at 4:57 pm

It’s about the fact that if you own a house and want to sell it, your pool of potential buyers is much larger if the house is in a “white area” than if it is in a “black area.” And on average, the buyers will have more money to spend.

The argument is made at length in a book called The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality, by Thomas M. Shapiro. I have not read the book, but I remember reading the WaPo review, and saying “well, of course.” Here is a quote from the review, which is excerpted at length on Amazon:

Because neighborhoods are racially segregated, African Americans’ homes do not grow in value as fast as whites’ homes do. Shapiro calculates that housing segregation costs African Americans tens of thousands of dollars in home equity. Homebuyers look for amenities commonly found in predominantly white neighborhoods. They pay extra for parks, convenient shopping and attractive views. Parents pay huge premiums for what they perceive to be good schools. Few parents can judge schools objectively. Instead, they use easy-to-observe markers, including the race of the students. These preferences raise the costs that first-time homebuyers face when they attempt to buy houses in those mostly white neighborhoods. Economic theory implies that if whites continue to waste money on irrational prejudices like this, market forces will eventually undo the racial disparity in wealth. But the experience of the last 50 years suggests otherwise. Inequality has grown because each new generation has been willing to pay a higher premium for these amenities. The market doesn’t punish discrimination; it rewards it.

20

Brett Bellmore 06.06.08 at 5:21 pm

Economic theory suggests that if a prejudice rewards you in the long run, it probably wasn’t irrational to begin with.

21

roac 06.06.08 at 5:52 pm

Oh, how nice! I don’t think.

22

seth edenbaum 06.06.08 at 5:52 pm

I grew up in a neighborhood that was 95% percent black, next door the the first black family to move onto the block 15 years earlier. The wife was the principle of a technical high school (and the only woman I’ve ever met who reminded me of Margaret Dumont). The father was a shop teacher. White flight had been immediate.
Just as a note, half a mile north, and technically the same neighborhood, was one of the first voluntarily integrated areas in the US.

23

CM 06.06.08 at 5:54 pm

I’d recommend reading “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism” by Kevin M. Kruse for more on this topic.

24

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 5:56 pm

Hm. I guess I owe Roac an apology.

25

roac 06.06.08 at 6:08 pm

If owed, accepted.

26

Slocum 06.06.08 at 6:10 pm

Out of curiosity, what are the most recent examples of white flight in the U.S.? In southeast Michigan for example, white flight happened (or at least intensified) after the 1967 Detroit riots, but that process was largely complete at least 30 years ago. Is that generally case, or are there recent cases of rapid, wholesale white cities or neighborhoods?

27

Barry 06.06.08 at 6:21 pm

The executive branch of the US federal government, next year?

28

Rich B. 06.06.08 at 6:59 pm

Rich, is your arguemnt that ebcause the lines between black and white areas have changed over time, it follows that black families have been free to move wherever they want?

No, it means that the lack of integrated neighborhoods is largely caused by tipping points and white flight — not by violence.

29

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 7:12 pm

the lack of integrated neighborhoods is largely caused by tipping points and white flight

Nope. there are many white neighborhoods — in Chicago and elsewhere — with essentially zero black residents. Tipping points & white flight can’t explain that.

Incidentally, when I lived in Chicago not so many years ago, I had the experience more than once, when looking for an aprtment, of being told by broker or landlord, “This is a nice place — no blacks.” Your claim that segregation does not involve more or less coercive exclusion of blacks from certain areas doesn’t pass the laugh test.

30

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 7:26 pm

Out of curiosity, what are the most recent examples of white flight in the U.S.? In southeast Michigan for example, white flight happened (or at least intensified) after the 1967 Detroit riots, but that process was largely complete at least 30 years ago.

Slocum, I think you are right that the classic white flight dynamic largely ceased to operate after 1975 or so. My feeling is that this dynamic depended on the huge pent-up housing demand among African-Americans caused by the combination of the great migration from the South and their effective exlcusion from most neighborhoods.

Today, you still have residential segregation, but the end of migration from the south and th increase in the number of areas where African-Americans can live means that it is no longer the case that (a) if any black families are able to move into an area, a great many soon will, (b) lack of alternatives means that blacks are willing to tolerate high levels of hostility (so that *very* high levels are needed to keep them out), and (c) the willingness of black families to pay a premium for whatever houses they are allowed to buy, despite generally lower incomes, makes block-busing profitable for speculators. Those were the conditions for white flight in the postwar period.

It *may* also be true that more whites are willing to tolerate a small number of black neighbors, that the overt racism that was needed to coordinate resistance to black entrants is less tolerated, and that other forces encouraging whites to move out of cities have weakened. But I would put less stress on those factors. The main thing is the end to the absolute shortage of housing in black neighborhoods.

31

jdkbrown 06.06.08 at 7:36 pm

“This pattern can be seen here (Ann Arbor) for a variety of racial/ethnic/religious groups:

– African Americans – Jews – East Asians – Muslims”

Um, I’ve been in Ann Arbor for six years, and I haven’t yet discovered the African American, Jewish, East Asian, and Muslim Quarters. Certainly there’s a fair amount of economic segregation, and some student ghetto-ization. But I’m really not aware of any racial/religious segregation.

32

smaug 06.06.08 at 7:49 pm

Schelling, at least in the 1969 AER article, was not trying to explain the causes of all segregation, even US racial segregation. Rather, he was trying to demonstrate how even modest individual discrimination could lead to absolute neighborhood segregation In particular, he was trying to explain “white flight” and the difficulties of achieving integration even if forcible barriers were removed. Degrees of “tolerance” mattered less than the ratios of whites to blacks, and absolute intolerance was not necessary to produce absolute discrimination.

33

Western Dave 06.06.08 at 7:57 pm

The high concentration of Jews, Chaldeans, Lesbians etc. in Ann Arbor has nothing to do with the fact that they are less likely to get the shit beaten out of them there than in other places in the state? Look, I lived in Ann Arbor for about six years and felt a hell of a lot safer there than in Saline or Ypsi. And I’m talking about fear of getting the crap kicked out of me by other whites. The question isn’t why isn’t population evenly distributed (cause history matters, duh) but why is Ann Arbor diverse and Saline not.

Re: Camden. African-Americans moved to Camden because they could. They could not move to the suburbs like whites did because of red-lining. Red-lining existed because banks and the federal government believed whites and blacks couldn’t live together peacefully. Why did they believe that? Because whites continually beat the shit out of or killed blacks who tried to move to white neighborhoods. Note that this phenomenon is more pronounced in the North after 1920. Sugrue showed this for Detroit in Origins of the Urban Crisis and others have shown for other cities.

34

roac 06.06.08 at 8:10 pm

A University of Chicago-trained economist, Homer Hoyt, produced the following ranking in the 1930s while working as a consultant for the Federal housing Administration. It was official government doctrine into the 1950s:

“If the entrance of a colored family into a white neighborhood causes a general exodus of the white people it is reflected in property values. Except in the case of Negroes and Mexicans, however, these racial and national barriers disappear when the individuals of the foreign nationality groups rise in the economic scale or conform to the American standards of living…While the ranking may be scientifically wrong from the standpoint of inherent racial characteristics, it registers an opinion or prejudice that is reflected in land values; it is the ranking of race and nationalities with respect to their beneficial effect upon land values. Those having the most favorable effect come first in the list and those exerting the most detrimental effect appear last: 1. English, Germans, Scots, Irish, Scandinavians; 2. North Italians; 3. Bohemians or Czechoslovakians; 4. Poles; 5. Lithuanians; 6. Greeks; 7. Russian Jews of lower class; 8. South Italians; 9. Negroes; 10. Mexicans”

35

Slocum 06.06.08 at 10:00 pm

Um, I’ve been in Ann Arbor for six years, and I haven’t yet discovered the African American, Jewish, East Asian, and Muslim Quarters. Certainly there’s a fair amount of economic segregation, and some student ghetto-ization. But I’m really not aware of any racial/religious segregation.

OK — this is about as Ann Arbor-centric as you could get, but while there are no areas exclusively populated by these groups, you’ll find higher concentrations of African Americans in the ‘historically black’ parts of town (North Main/Wheeler Park, north of Broadway, Northside Elementary) and in the SE side of town (Platt, Carpenter Road areas — Bryant and Carpenter elementary schools and Scarlett Middle School). You’ll find concentrations of East Asians up around King Elementary. Old hippies on the Old West Side. Rich liberals (and quite a few Jewish families) in Ann Arbor Hills. Muslims also in the Northeast (the Islamic Center is also up there). Also in the SE — rare to go in Meijers on Carpenter without seeing a number of women in hijabs and often a burka or two. Don’t see them at Whole Foods or Hillers (the Jewish grocery). Rich Republicans in expensive sprawl-land developments toward Saline and Dexter. Middle-class whites in lower-priced sprawl-land in Pittsfield and toward Ypsi.

36

lemuel pitkin 06.06.08 at 11:26 pm

while there are no areas exclusively populated by these groups, you’ll find higher concentrations of African Americans in the ‘historically black’ parts of town

Let’s be clear: This is *not* the sort of pattern that discussions of segregation are concerned with. Ann Arbor, as you describe it, is *not segregated*.

Segregation is this: in a city that is about one-third white and one-third black, most black residents live in neighborhoods that are over 95% black, while in large parts of the city, there are essentially no blacks at all.

Chicago is extreme but that sort of pattern is found in many American cities. Nothing remotely like it occurs for any otehr demographic group.

37

lemuel pitkin 06.07.08 at 12:08 am

Here are some numbers for Chicago from the 1990 census:

Total population, 2.8 million, of which 1.1 million (39%) black.

Nearly half (41.2%) of blacks lived in neighborhoods that were *over 98 percent black*.

I believe that’s what’s known as a ghetto.

An additional 20 percent lived in neighborhoods that were over 90 percent black.

(And note that these figures *underestimate* the real extent of segregation, because the boundaries used — the city’s 77 designated community areas — don’t necessarily correspond to real neighborhoods. So some of the “mixed” areas are really adjoining sections of two highly sergeated areas.)

At the other extreme, 18 community areas, with 15 percent of the total population, were *less than 1 percent black*.

Remember, this is a city that is nearly 40 percent black. And this measure misses all-white neighborhoods that fall into the same community areas as separate black or mixed neighborhoods.

The 10 most segregated community areas, with a total popualtion of 240,000 — nearly a tenth of the city — had just *214 blacks in total*. Again, in a city that was 40 percent black.

This is segregation.

It has nothing to do with the kind of natural sorting you find in a place like Ann Arbor. There is nothing close to it for any other group. And it doesn’t happen without massive coercion.

38

rea 06.07.08 at 12:38 am

in a city that is about one-third white and one-third black

Just out of curiousity, what’s the remaining third? You’re talking about Chicago, right?

39

Cranky Observer 06.07.08 at 12:39 am

> Slocum, I think you are right that the
> classic white flight dynamic largely ceased to
> operate after 1975 or so.

The south suburbs of Chicago. Not as fast or as extreme as Roseland in the 1960s, but the children/grandchildren of the whites who fled Roseland then are now abandoning, e.g. Homewood/Flossmoor, as middle-class blacks much like themselves move in.

Cranky

40

lemuel pitkin 06.07.08 at 12:43 am

Just out of curiousity, what’s the remaining third? You’re talking about Chicago, right?

Yes. My first post is 2000 numbers, the second is 1990. By 2000, Chicago was 26% Hispanic and 4% Asian.

41

lemuel pitkin 06.07.08 at 12:45 am

The south suburbs of Chicago.

I think, tho, that what you see now is a more gradual process. In the 1950s and ’60s neighborhoods could go from essentially 100% white to 100% black within just a few years. (The awareness of this possibility, of course, was one of the reasons whites were so resistant to having *any* blacks move in.) That’s what doesn’t happen now.

42

Witt 06.07.08 at 12:46 am

No, it means that the lack of integrated neighborhoods is largely caused by tipping points and white flight—not by violence.

I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps people are imagining “violence” as a guy with a white hood burning a cross on your lawn. I’m willing to grant that’s vanishingly rare these days.

But I am very familiar with Philadelphia, and it is emphatically the case that ethnic and sometimes religious and other boundaries between neighborhoods are enforced rigorously, intimidatingly, formally and informally every day. It happens when realtors steer you, when police stop you for having the wrong skin color (I am white; this happened to me in a 92% black neighborhood a few weeks ago), when school personnel “advise” you to transfer, in a thousand and one ways.

If you do move into a neighborhood where you are perceived to “not belong” or be overstepping,
you are reminded of that through a hundred subtle tactics. Taxi drivers won’t take you there. The New York Times refuses home delivery (actually the case in parts of Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy for many years). And worse: Literally today I heard a story about a Dominican family whose Christmas lawn display was vandalized and daughter physically assaulted after they moved into a majority European-American Jewish neighborhood. That was bad enough, but the police refused to pursue the case (saying the neighbor suspected of doing it was elderly) and a petition then circulated in the neighborhood to try to get the “troublemaking” Dominican family out.

Violence and threats of violence does have to be the Klan to be real. I’m perfectly happy to grant that 2008 is not 1958, but Rich B’s description and assertions do not jibe with my experience.

43

Witt 06.07.08 at 12:48 am

Whoops, obviously that should be does not have to be the Klan.

44

Martin Bento 06.07.08 at 4:38 am

Aside from people who want to downplay racism or nastiness in general, I think there is another bias at work here. Given the phenomenon of segregated neighborhoods and two general types of explanations:

a) the neighborhoods are segregated because people with power to enforce their preferences consciously decide to make them so and conspire to bring it about and maintain it and

b) that various independent decisions not directed to an overall purpose result in segregated neighborhoods as an emergent phenomenon,

Contemporary intellectuals will have a strong bias towards explanations of type B because they are less teleological. The defeat of teleology in explanations of the natural world is, of course, a basic boundary between modern science and religion, and natural science has proven to be so powerful at providing novel insights into the world and novel ways to manipulate it that its methods are envied and emulated elsewhere. But does it really make sense to try to exorcise teleology from our accounts of human activity, given that we know that human beings are, in fact, capable of acting purposefully, coordinating their activities and so on.

Another example: in his new book, Paul Krugman argues (well, more asserts, but claims the research is documented elsewhere) that the emergence of the middle class in the mid-20th century was almost entirely the result of political decisions to bring about a more economically-egalitarian society, though economics has rather dogmatically treated them as emergent products of a certain phase of economic development. The “emergent” account doesn’t fit well with the historical facts, but it does fit well with certain intellectual biases, and by no means only those of economists.

45

andrew 06.07.08 at 9:38 am

Just to add to what Witt’s saying, there is evidence that racial steering is still going on despite fair housing laws. Among the comments quoted in the linked article made by real estate agents during a 2000 housing discrimination study is this one from Philadelphia:

“You would not like homes around [area] because it is ‘densely populated.’ How do I put this nicely? [After thinking for a moment, the agent sighed and said] There are some things in real estate that I just can’t say.” (Philadelphia, PA)

46

Brett Bellmore 06.07.08 at 11:29 am

“Taxi drivers won’t take you there. The New York Times refuses home delivery”

And you think this sort of thing has nothing to do with, maybe, crime rates?

47

Slocum 06.07.08 at 12:45 pm

lemuel pitkin: Let’s be clear: This is not the sort of pattern that discussions of segregation are concerned with. Ann Arbor, as you describe it, is not segregated.

There are certainly activists in town who disagree and believe that Ann Arbor still has a level of segregation is one that needs to be remedied. Ann Arbor was under a court-ordered school desegregation program. Until fairly recently (e.g. the last decade or so), the school district was operating as if it was still bound by the decision and had a rule that no school could have an ethnic population that was, I believe, more than 50% off. So if African Americans were 16% of the district population, then no school could be less than 8% black or more than 32%. And because of housing patterns, boundary gerrymandering and busing were, indeed, used to make that happen.

The last time elementary school boundaries were re-drawn (about 10 years ago), there was a huge, nasty fight over moving kids and closing elementary schools and converting them to magnet programs, and during that process the district finally admitted it had no longer had legal obligation to follow that 50% rule. But even now there are controversies related to segregation. For example:

http://www.proposedhighschool.org/supporting/demographics/JMFRaceEssay.html

But my point is not that it’s some sort of mini 1950s Little Rock situation around here. I think living patterns here are now based entirely on preferences and economics. But preferences and economics result in some areas with concentrations of minorities and other areas with virtually none.

The “emergent” account doesn’t fit well with the historical facts, but it does fit well with certain intellectual biases, and by no means only those of economists.

Martin Bento: Historical facts, no. But the current situation yes. We see clusters of various racial and ethnic minorities (some historical, some newly created) that emerge from nothing more than a desire to live around at least some other people with whom one shares language, tastes in food, national background, religion, and cultural mores. But if minorities cluster at higher than average concentrations in some areas, that necessarily leaves other areas with few or none. And this is the case even if those concentrations are nowhere near 100%.

48

Bill Tozier 06.07.08 at 1:02 pm

Just to add a direct counterpoint to an anecdotal point above: slocum wrote of Ann Arbor:

I don’t think there’s any evidence that these patterns are ‘enforced’ by anything other than economics and preferences.

I confess that I’ve been tempted five or six times to call the zoning commission about a violation of the city’s “no more than two unrelated persons may share a house” rule, right here in our previously quiet 1960s Pine Valley neighborhood of Ann Arbor.

Bunch of damned noisy students next door, dropping our property values, waking us up, filling up our street with cars &c &c. Admittedly, I haven’t done a thing personally. But there have been a few huddled arms-crossed impromptu meetings on the street “discussing” the situation.

So there’s a bit more than personal preference here. In some cases, there are demographic laws on the books.

49

Answer Guy 06.07.08 at 3:54 pm

Out of curiosity, what are the most recent examples of white flight in the U.S.?

Prince George’s County, Maryland. By the next census, it may have (if it doesn’t already) more black residents than neighboring Washington, DC – and fewer white residents.

And while parts of the county are run-down and hard to tell from the DC slums they border…other parts of it are quite affluent. And yet apart from a few areas on the periphery, and a few others around the University of Maryland, whites just don’t move there and have spent the last 30 years leaving in droves. The perception certainly exists that the county government is badly run and that most of the schools are poor, at least when compared to other schools in the DC area.

50

lemuel pitkin 06.07.08 at 4:01 pm

if minorities cluster at higher than average concentrations in some areas, that necessarily leaves other areas with few or none. And this is the case even if those concentrations are nowhere near 100%.

Do you really think that’s the explanation for the patterns in Chicago?

51

Slocum 06.07.08 at 6:24 pm

Do you really think that’s the explanation for the patterns in Chicago?

Yes and no — depends on where in Chicago. On the north side, yes I do. Preferences and economics drive changes in demographics continually. There’s a repeated pattern of gentrification starting with gays/bohemians looking for cheap urban real-estate to be followed by yuppies once the place is cleaned up. For example:

“Is this progress or is it just part of the cycle of gentrification, of city life itself? Do I feel resentful that my neighborhood is becoming more straight-inclined, that younger gays are priced out of living here? Or is there room enough for everyone–for should all new residents of Ukrainian Village be Ukrainian? Should all new residents of Lakeview be gay just because this is a gay neighborhood and there are rainbow pylons on Halsted Street? We’re free to choose where we live based on the space, services, and amenities we can afford. Free market, free will.”

http://lakeviewstudio.blogspot.com/2005/04/on-gentrification-and-gays.html

52

Martin Bento 06.07.08 at 8:19 pm

Slocum, certainly I’m not saying type B explanations never apply, and I think they mostly apply now to this particular question, although there may be places where historical effects are self-perpetuating and maybe still perpetuated. By I think type A explanations get short shrift because they remind people too much of “look at the complexity of a bird’s wing; surely, someone must have designed it for its purpose”, which is an intuitively compelling idea science has been at great pains to combat. However, I submit, part of the reason it is so intuitively compelling is that in the world of human action, which our intelligence was largely evolved, it seems, to deal with, such inferences are often valid, and necessary to understanding.

53

engels 06.07.08 at 9:58 pm

The defeat of teleology in explanations of the natural world is, of course, a basic boundary between modern science and religion

I have to say that teleological explanations haven’t been excluded from modern science; on the contrary, they are very common in biology (some would argue they are a special and ineliminable feature of biological explanations). What has been rejected, as you rightly note in #52, is the inference from the appearance of functional design to the existence of a designer, but that is a rather different point…

54

Slocum 06.07.08 at 10:25 pm

Slocum, certainly I’m not saying type B explanations never apply, and I think they mostly apply now to this particular question, although there may be places where historical effects are self-perpetuating…

Right, and I’m not saying type A explanations never apply either, though they apply much less frequently than a generation ago (say an order of magnitude less often). And I would say there are many places where historical ‘type A’ effects are now reinforced by ‘type B’ effects even though the original type A effects have vanished. There is a great deal of path dependency in living patterns.

55

lemuel pitkin 06.07.08 at 10:45 pm

Yes and no—depends on where in Chicago. On the north side, yes I do. Preferences and economics drive changes in demographics continually.

You *really* don’t want to talk about segregation, do you?

56

Martin Bento 06.07.08 at 11:49 pm

Engels, I meant teleological in the specific sense of the teleological proof, which is an argument from design to designer. I realize there are other senses in which teleology still reigns, but I thought my meaning was clear (maybe not).

slocum, if you’re only talking about racial segregation of neighborhoods, I agree that type B forces have become more prevalent over time, as type A casual factors are now largely illegal – which doesn’t necessarily rule them out, but does inhibit them. If you mean that type B explanations of the human world generally are more valid now than previously, I don’t know why that would be so.

57

roac 06.08.08 at 2:19 am

A note on racial steering, raised in no. 45. It is illegal for a real estate agent to volunteer any information about racial makeup of a neighborhood; agents generally are trained to refuse to answer any questions on the subject. It is just as much a violation to communicate the information by a wink and a nudge, as described in the post, as to come right out and say it.

Having said that, it is unfortunately a fact that a whole lot of people want to know about race when house-hunting, so just as with drugs and prostitution, we are talking about willing sellers and willing buyers. (Some fair housing types profess a view of the world in which nobody would think about race in this context if the evil real estate industry didn’t plant the idea. Hopelessly naive in my view.) It’s easy to catch agents doing this by the use of “testers,” just as it’s easy for undercover cops to catch prostitutes, but it’s not a very productive strategy and has been largely abandoned.

Withholding information about listings in white areas from black buyers is another kettle of fish – but harder to prove.

58

White Cornerback 06.08.08 at 9:12 am

Very few whites want to live in a neighborhood that is more than one quarter black. The number goes much lower when you talk about whites with children. And this racism is for entirely rational and LOVING reasons: people, including many blacks, don’t want to be exposed to the sickness and violence endemnic in the black American ghetto.

59

Slocum 06.08.08 at 11:12 am

Martin Bento: If you mean that type B explanations of the human world generally are more valid now than previously, I don’t know why that would be so.

Only because the relative strengths of A and B have changed — in the U.S. at least (which is what we’ve been discussing). I would say both ‘type A’ and ‘type B’ effects are quite a bit weaker than they used to be. Not only is segregation created and enforced by overt racial animus, violence, and intimidation very much less common than before, but also people have weaker preferences for living around ‘people like themselves’ or, I suppose you could say, people have a broader sense of ‘people like themselves’. So what I’m saying is that where you do see higher-than-average concentrations of minorities, the causes are much more likely to be of ‘type B’.

lemuel pitkin: You really don’t want to talk about segregation, do you?

And you really seem unwilling to acknowledge any improvement in race relations. Efforts against racism have been ongoing for several generations — do you think these have had no effect? Survey results show enormous shifts in racial attitudes — toward, for example, interracial dating and marriage. Consider the complete reversal during the last 50 years seen here:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/28417/Most-Americans-Approve-Interracial-Marriages.aspx

Do you think these dramatically changing attitudes have had no appreciable effect on living patterns?

60

Martin Bento 06.08.08 at 11:38 am

slocum, in other words, yes, you are limiting your discussion to racial segregation, the current topic (I was making a broader point), which is fine. I suppose type B effects have diminished, although I know that is San Francisco, for example, there are ethnic enclaves of quite recent vintage: the Russian cluster in the Richmond or the Vietnamese corridor in the Tenderloin. But these are just tendencies, not hard segregation. I agree with you about path dependence, by the way.

61

lemuel pitkin 06.08.08 at 2:29 pm

And you really seem unwilling to acknowledge any improvement in race relations.

Absolutely it’s improved. But the question raised by the post is, how did the extreme segregation of African-Americans in many big cities, which persists in only somewhat diminished form, come into being?

In that context, talking about the totally different kind of clustering you see of other demographic groups is just a distraction.

62

roac 06.08.08 at 3:20 pm

Clustering among immigrants is a universal phenomenon, for obvious reasons. If you were moving to a new country, wouldn’t you seek out the most familiar environment possible?

I understand that here in Northern Virginia, where Salvadoreans are the largest immigrant group, each of the Salvadorean enclaves is strongly identified with a particular town in El Salvador. Of course. Even apart from the language issue, why would you live among strangers when you can live among your cousins?

The cluster will persist as long as there are new immigrants to feed it. The question is, where do the children of the immigrants live when they grow up? I have no data, but presumably there is a significant dispersal.

63

Barry 06.09.08 at 11:42 am

“You really don’t want to talk about segregation, do you?”
Posted by lemuel pitkin

The original post which started this conversation was on ‘Schelling type tipping point arguments’; IMHO they were eagerly embraced by the right *because* they allowed people to ignore the stunning history of deliberate and enforced racial segregation.

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