Agents of Change: Mixed-Race Households and the Dynamics of Neighborhood Segregation in the United States

Mark Ellis, Steven R. Holloway, Richard Wright, Christopher S. Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This article explores the effects of mixed-race household formation on trends in neighborhood-scale racial segregation. Census data show that these effects are nontrivial in relation to the magnitude of decadal changes in residential segregation. An agent-based model illustrates the potential long-run impacts of rising numbers of mixed-race households on measures of neighborhood-scale segregation. It reveals that high rates of mixed-race household formation will reduce residential segregation considerably. This occurs even when preferences for own-group neighbors are high enough to maintain racial separation in residential space in a Schelling-type model. We uncover a disturbing trend, however; levels of neighborhood-scale segregation of single-race households can remain persistently high even while a growing number of mixed-race households drives down the overall rate of residential segregation. Thus, the article's main conclusion is that parsing neighborhood segregation levels by household type-single versus mixed race-is essential to interpret correctly trends in the spatial separation of racial groups, especially when the fraction of households that are mixed race is dynamic. More broadly, the article illustrates the importance of household-scale processes for urban outcomes and joins debates in geography about interscalar relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-570
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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