Residential Segregation

Residential segregation on the basis of race has been one of the characteristic features of the U.S. urban landscape for more than a century and one of the central mechanisms in the reproduction of racial inequality.

One strand of research examines the crucial period at the beginning of the 20th Century when white mob violence was formalized into racial zoning ordinances and racially restrictive covenants designed to drive African Americans urban residents from their homes and prevent them from moving into white neighborhoods.  What explains why some cities enacted explicit segregation ordinances and not others?  What effects did those ordinances have on subsequent racialized violence, countermobilization by the NAACP, and future urban growth and development?  How did state and federal courts evaluate these policies?  What do the courts’ interpretations reveal about the relationship between race and property at the same historical moment when the practice of comprehensive zoning gained widespread popularity in the United States?

In the 20th Century, the Great Migration transformed the United States as millions of African Americans left the rural South and remade the nation’s cities. The growth of the U.S. Latino population is provoking a similar transformation in the 21st Century.  Between 1970 and 2010, the Latino population grew from 8 million to more than 45 million, most of whom live in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.  During the Great Migration, both de jure and de facto segregation policies severely constrained the options of African-American migrants, steering them into segregated housing and labor markets and contributing to what the Kerner Commission in 1968 described as a nation “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Although levels of black-white residential segregation have decreased from their 1968 levels, they remain high, and evidence suggests that segregation continues to produce separate and unequal access to resources, such as schools or jobs, and exposure to hazards, such as violence or environmental risks.  As the Latino population continues to grow, Latinos seem to be inheriting the segregated urban structures experienced by African Americans.  As metropolitan area levels of segregation for Latinos increase toward the levels observed for African Americans, to what extent are the effects of segregation similar or different for the two groups?