Some Notes on the Effects of Residential Segregation, and Spatial Isolation:                 rev 3/2013


Effects of Segregation and Isolation


* As minority population grows (through immigration, for instance), their spatial isolation from the majority increases even if the level of segregation remains constant

Prof. Rosenfeld simulation of segregation and isolation indices

* Political isolation: a residentially isolated minority cannot make political alliances with other groups- their local political needs do not overlap with anyone else's.  Massey and Denton cite the example of the closure of fire stations in the ghettos of New York.  Because the fire stations in the Black neighborhoods only served Blacks, it was easier for New York City government to close them.

Massey and Denton

* Lani Guinier pushes the political argument a bit further.  In the aftermath of the Voting Rights Act (1965), the decennial process of districting has, under court orders, undertaken a kind of reverse- gerrymandering, which draws districts to maximize the number of 'minority- majority' districts, that is the number of districts that are majority Black.  This means that there are more Black elected officials, but even more political isolation between Blacks and Whites.

Lani Guinier

* Physical isolation leads to cultural and linguistic isolation: the urban underclass comes to resent signs and messages of the dominant culture that they see as hypocritical. Black English vernacular and Standard English seem to be growing apart.

Massey and Denton, Kotlowitz

* White flight to the suburbs leaves urban schools with an insufficient tax base, and therefore insufficient resources.

Wilson, Massey and Denton, Kotlowitz

* Racial segregation concentrates poverty and therefore crime.  Inner city residents face much higher rates of violent crime than anyone else.  Because of the dangers of the neighborhoods, police are much more likely to arrest or even kill unarmed and innocent civilians. Even though poor neighborhoods need the police the most, community-police relations tend to be worst in the high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods.


* The lack of social control, the low rates of home ownership, the prevalence of abandoned buildings, the transient nature of the population, and the ineffective police intervention make poor segregated neighborhoods ideal places for drug gangs to operate.

Anderson, Kotlowitz, Hoop Dreams

* The concentration of poverty means that ghetto residents have too few role models.  Without knowing anyone who has succeeded in school and gone on to college and a professional career, children in the ghetto can't imagine how they might succeed.

Kotlowitz; Hoop Dreams


* The lack of positive role models in the ghetto is also related to what Anderson refers to as the disappearance of the “old heads,” and the reduced influence of the old heads who remain.

Anderson; see also Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

* Wilson discusses several important historical trends that relate to the decreased influence of the “old heads,” including the decline of the manufacturing economy (which the old heads were well established in), and the outmigration of well-educated blacks from the inner cities as racial segregation declined in the post-Civil-Rights era.


* Micro-segregation: Even in the ostensibly integrated Village school, white and black students choose different tracks and end up having separate, and segregated school experiences in the same school building


* Because of segregation and isolation, blacks and whites are suspicious of each other even in integrated settings. Regular exposure between groups does not necessarily lead to greater understanding or reduced prejudice.


* The concentration of poverty ensures that Black inner city neighborhoods don't have the economic strength to support a sufficient retail sector, so all goods available in the inner city are over-priced.  The poor pay more for diapers.

Massey and Denton

* Segregation in the housing market limits the supply of housing available to Blacks, and therefore drives up the price of housing available to Blacks.

Hirsch, Massey and Denton

* Segregation was reinforced by a conscious policy of neighborhood 'redlining', by the Federal government, so the lack of loans and investment and credit in the inner city has robbed generations of Blacks of the benefits of home ownership.

Massey and Denton

* The inheritance of wealth across generations means that the racially segregated division in outcomes from the post-World War II suburban housing boom (as well as the earlier history of slavery and Jim Crow) has had a very divergent effect on the wealth accumulation of white and black families.

Oliver and Shapiro

* The entrepreneurship gap: whites seem to have been unwilling to support black businesses. One result is that even in all-black communities, most of the small business owners are nonblack, and tension is consistently enacted between ghetto businesses and the poverty stricken customers who patronize those establishments.

Anderson, Oliver and Shapiro; Do the Right Thing

* Hopelessness is a key part of the psychology of ghetto residence.

Kenneth B. Clark's studies of Harlem youth, Massey and Denton, Kotlowitz

* Narrow geographic horizons: In segregated and isolated communities, residents have a very narrow sense of the geographical dimensions of their neighborhood. The narrow geographic horizons are often translated into reduced ambitions.

Thesis by Jackie Hwang, Kotlowitz

* Ghetto residents are alienated from the large, impersonal bureaucracies that rule their lives (the housing authority, the court system, the welfare office), and these bureaucracies make no effort to teach ghetto residents about their rights.  So without financial resources or sufficient education, ghetto residents are treated capriciously and frequently unfairly by these important bureaucracies

Kotlowitz, Piven and Cloward

* Family disorganization: Moynihan notes that single parenthood, and matriarchal families are more common among blacks in the urban North than for rural or Southern blacks. The absence of fathers leads to less supervision, and more wayward behavior among the youth.

Moynihan, Anderson

* The culture of poverty: Although Murray argues that the culture of poverty (short time horizon, failure to plan ahead, failure to save, lack of work ethic, unstable family) is entirely a result of individual motives and moral hazards created by poorly designed public policy, other scholars see concentrated poverty reinforcing culture of poverty or the oppositional culture in ghetto communities.

Murray, Massey and Denton, Anderson

* Despite crime, alienation and hopelessness, the concentration of Blacks in crowded inner city neighborhoods provides the potential for explosive rebellions and mobilizations

Piven and Cloward