Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Micromotives and Macrobehaviors: A Note About Residential Segregation



The Atlantic Cities recently highlighted a new research paper in which the authors argue that people's  teenage years are influential toward the types of neighborhoods that they move to as young adults. Here is the abstract:
Prior research has shown that neighbourhood racial and income contexts remain similar across generations within White, Black and Latino families in the US. This article builds on this research by examining the extent to which geographical mobility during the transition to adulthood attenuates the perpetuation of residential segregation from Whites among Asians, Blacks and Latinos. Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study linked to 1990 and 2000 US census data were analysed. Results suggest that residential exposure to Whites is similar during youth and adulthood among young adults who live in the same metropolitan area where they lived as adolescents, regardless of race/ethnicity. Among those who migrate to another metropolitan area, adolescent exposure predicts exposure among Asian, Black and Latino young adults, but not among Whites themselves. Thus, limited experience with integrated neighbourhoods during adolescence among non-Whites and limited geographical mobility among all young adults help to perpetuate segregation.
This is all fine as these things go, but a weird thing about this paper is that it doesn't cite Thomas Schelling's Segregation Model. This model is explained in the video above, and what Schelling's model predicts is that even mild preference for neighbors leads to nearly full segregation. Even when no one acts in a outwardly racially biased way neighborhoods self-segregate.  Schelling certainly isn't an obscure figure as he received a Nobel less than a decade ago.

What the paper provides is empirical evidence of Schelling's well-known theories, which is welcome. Planners and policy makers should heed the large effects that small biases and preferences can create. Micromotives and Macrobehavior should be required reading.
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