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: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter 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 chapter'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 chapter illustrates the importance of household-scale processes for urban outcomes and joins debates in geography about interscalar relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Applied System Science
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781315748771
ISBN (Print)9780415843324
StatePublished - Nov 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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