Do cities exclude? An analysis of ethnoracial segregation at municipal boundaries

Authors: Andre Comandon*, University of Southern California
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography
Keywords: segregation, zoning, boundaries
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Suburbs conjure images of homogeneity that no longer hold. Many suburbs diversified, struggled with high poverty rates, and welcomed decentralizing jobs. Yet, some suburbs have remained strikingly homogeneous compared to surrounding cities. One explanation of inter-municipal segregation is the authority local governments have over land use through zoning. Zoning is a powerful tool municipalities use to regulate growth and dictate who can afford to live within their boundaries. If all municipalities have the authority to zone, why have some been more successful in excluding people of color and lower income households. As regions diversified, the value people ascribe to white affluent suburbs as increased. The scarcity of homogeneous suburbs, especially close to urban centers, has driven up prices within their boundaries with spillover effects. White people value proximity to such suburbs that they will pay the higher taxes of central cities to locate outside their boundaries, creating buffer zones. I use census block data at the boundaries of over 3000 cities in 56 regions in the south and west United States to analyze the relationship between municipalities and their surroundings. I find that most exclusionary cities, cities that are least 10 percentage point whiter than the region, have large buffers between them and more diverse cities. Most buffers are other white suburbs which, together form a cluster. Either as a cluster or as single entity, those white enclaves tend to spillover into surrounding neighborhoods. Cities that lack such a buffer tend to be large enough to create internal divisions.

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