The Shape of Racial Residential Preferences: Findings from a New Methodology

Valerie Lewis, Dartmouth College
Michael O. Emerson, Rice University
Stephen Klineberg, Rice University

The literature on racial residential preferences has carefully considered not only if racial preferences exist, but also the shape they take. Discussion on whites' preferences has often focused on if there is a tipping point. Discussion blacks' preferences generally agrees that blacks prefer 50-50 integrated neighborhoods. Discussion of Hispanics' is still developing. Most studies to date have used showcard methodologies to examine the shape of preferences. In this study we use a factorial experiment from the Houston Area Survey to gain a new perspective on the shape of preferences. We find no evidence of a tipping point for whites, but rather that neighborhood desirability steadily decreases as the percent of whites and blacks increases. In contrast, neither Hispanics nor blacks show any clear shape to residential preferences; notably, there is no evidence that blacks prefer 50-50 neighborhoods. This study adds to our understanding of how racial preferences operate.

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Presented in Session 107: Innovations in the Study of Residential Segregation