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Pais, Jeremy F.; South, Scott J.; & Crowder, Kyle D. (2012). Metropolitan Heterogeneity and Minority Neighborhood Attainment: Spatial Assimilation or Place Stratification?. Social Problems, 59(2), 258-281. PMCID: PMC3359053


Using geo-referenced data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, in conjunction with decennial census data, this research examines metropolitan-area variation in the ability of residentially mobile blacks, Hispanics, and whites to convert their income into two types of neighborhood outcomes-neighborhood racial composition and neighborhood socioeconomic status. For destination tract racial composition, we find strong and near-universal support for the "weak version" of place stratification theory; relative to whites, the effect of individual income on the percent of the destination tract population that is non-Hispanic white is stronger for blacks and Hispanics, but even the highest earning minority group members move to tracts that are "less white" than the tracts that the highest-earning whites move to. In contrast, for moves into neighborhoods characterized by higher levels of average family income, we find substantial heterogeneity across metropolitan areas in minorities' capacity to convert income into neighborhood quality. A slight majority of metropolitan areas evince support for the "strong version" of place stratification theory, in which blacks and Hispanics are less able than whites to convert income into neighborhood socioeconomic status. However, a nontrivial number of metropolitan areas also evince support for spatial assimilation theory, where the highest-earning minorities achieve neighborhood parity with the highest-earning whites. Several metropolitan-area characteristics, including residential segregation, racial and ethnic composition, immigrant population size, poverty rates, and municipal fragmentation, emerge as significant predictors of minority-white differences in neighborhood attainment.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Problems


Pais, Jeremy F.
South, Scott J.
Crowder, Kyle D.