Abstract

This study evaluates the extent to which metropolitan racial segregation occurs between neighborhoods—from tract to tract—and within neighborhoods—from block to block—and is framed theoretically by Putnam's (2007) “hunkering down” hypothesis. Analyses are based on complete-count block, tract, and metropolitan data from the last four U.S. decennial censuses. We document recent patterns of block-to-block segregation between Whites and racial and ethnic minorities (Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics) and between different minority pairs. For example, roughly 40% of all metro Black–White segregation is due to segregation from block to block within neighborhoods. Among Asians, the between-neighborhood component of metropolitan segregation has increased over time but was largely compensated by declines in the within-neighborhood (or block) component. Metropolitan fixed-effects models show that trends and racial and ethnic differences in segregation—overall and within and between neighborhoods—are broadly observed across metro areas but are most evident in the largest, oldest, and most highly segregated metro areas. The results are robust to alternative estimates that adjust for differential privacy, metropolitan reclassification, and neighborhood boundary changes. Analyses of neighborhood change in Atlanta, Georgia, further reinforce the generality of our multiscale approach.

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