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Racial Attraction or Racial Avoidance in American Suburbs?

NCJ Number
Social Forces Volume: 77 Issue: 2 Dated: December 1998 Pages: 541-566
S-S Hwang; S H Murdock
Date Published
26 pages
Census data on population changes from 1980 to 1990 for four racial and ethnic groups in 1,672 suburban cities were used to examine the principle of homophily, which assumes that people are attracted to those like themselves and repelled by others who are different and thus that residential areas become racially homogeneous.
The independent variables were the 1980 racial or ethnic composition of the suburb measured by the percentage of each of the four groups in the suburb's total population. The dependent variables were the percentage of population change between 1980 and 1990 among non-Hispanic whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. The analysis for specific groups excluded suburbs that did not contain the particular group in 1980. Results of the regression analysis contradicted the principle of homophily. The suburbs with higher percentages of white persons generally grew faster than places with smaller proportions of white people. Suburbs with higher percentages of black people in the population tended to experience either population decline or small rates of growth for all groups. Minority populations grew faster not in suburbs with a high percentage of their own group but in areas where white people were the majority. These findings could be explained by spatial-assimilation and place-stratification models. Findings indicated that minority suburbanization is a process driven mainly by status motivation rather than by ethnic considerations. Findings questioned an unqualified acceptance of either the in-group attraction or the out-group avoidance hypothesis. Tables, notes, and 58 references (Author abstract modified)