Does socioeconomic status matter? Race, class, and residential segregation

John Iceland, Rima Wilkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

271 Scopus citations


Spatial assimilation theory predicts that racial and ethnic residential segregation results at least in part from socioeconomic differences across groups. In contrast, the place stratification perspective emphasizes the role of prejudice and discrimination in shaping residential patterns. This article evaluates these perspectives by examining the role of race and class in explaining the residential segregation of African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians from non-Hispanic whites in all U.S. metropolitan areas over the 1990 to 2000 period. Using the dissimilarity index and various indicators of socioeconomic status (SES), we find that in both 1990 and 2000 high-SES racial and ethnic groups were significantly less segregated from non-Hispanic whites than corresponding low-SES groups, especially among Hispanics and Asians - much as the spatial assimilation model would predict. Consistent with the place stratification model, African Americans of all SES levels continued to be more segregated from whites than were Hispanics and Asians, and this changed little between 1990 and 2000. However, the importance of SES in explaining the segregation of African Americans from whites increased over the period, while not for Hispanics and Asian Americans, providing support for a modest increase in the applicability of the spatial assimilation model for African Americans in the 1990s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-273
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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