Optimizing Residential Segregation and Urban Crime

Bryan L. Sykes, University of Washington
Jacob Young, University of Washington
Kevin Drakulich, University of Washington

Research consistently finds that racially segregated communities experience higher levels of crime and social disorganization. Yet the 1990s crime decline was unaccompanied by a notable change in the residential segregation levels of many cities between 1990 and 2000, suggesting a possible decoupling of the relationship between segregation and crime. In this paper we investigate when, whether and how racial segregation structures disadvantage among minority communities. Our analysis will optimize residential segregation and homicide rates by finding the maximum level of racial integration (or isolation) that minimizes (or maximizes) homicide between 1980 and 2000. Segregation thresholds are identified to illuminate “tipping points” in homicide rates, and segregation inertia/stability during this period is used to test causal arguments that homicide (or crime more generally) is caused by growing inequality in residential segregation.

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Presented in Session 133: The Consequences of Racial/Ethnic Residential Segregation