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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic Preferences and Neighborhood Transitions


In the past decade there has been a growing literature focused on explaining the patterns of residential separation in U.S. metropolitan areas. The research of two decades ago which focused on the locational structure of the mono-centric city represented by studies by Alonso (1964), Mills (1967), Muth (1969) and Wingo (1961) was mostly concerned with the way in which land uses as a whole are structured in the city. There was much less attention directed to the issues of residential separation, especially the separation of ethnic areas within metropolitan areas.

In the last dozen years at least three research streams have developed to explore the issue of residential patterning and neighborhood change. One of these streams considers neighborhood change as the outcome of a set of exogenous factors such as income, population growth, changing job locations and housing change.

A second research stream also includes exogenous economic factors additionally includes the role of racially biased household preferences, racial discrimination in the functioning of the housing market and by extension in the transition of neighborhoods.

The third research stream specifically examines the way in which discrimination affects the patterns of separation.

Paralleling the debates about the factors which influence the nature of residential change and residential separation are empirical studies of residential change itself. An important aspect of understanding residential change is residential behavior and the resulting changes in residential separation. Much of the emphasis has been on the role of tipping and explanations of tipping.

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